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BOSTON (CBS) – Jared Sullinger does not view his fall in the NBA Draft as a bad thing.
In fact, he’s more than ecstatic to have landed on the Boston Celtics as the 21st pick in last week’s NBA Draft.
“I think it’s a blessing in disguise. Coming to a great organization like the Boston Celtics and coming to an organization with a winning tradition means a lot to me,” he said at his introductory press conference Monday morning. “If you consider me landing on the Boston Celtics as a drop, I’ll do it all over again without hesitation.”
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Sullinger was introduced alongside Fab Melo (taken 22nd overall) and Kris Joseph (Boston’s second-round selection) at the Jackson Mann/Horace Mann Complex in Allston, just before the new Celtics helped unveil a renovated library and multipurpose room that was donated by the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation.
The soon-to-be rookies already got a taste of life as a Celtic off the court, playing games with some lucky students which included an on-line scavenger hunt to teach the newest Celtics about Celtics history.
Now, the Celtics brass can’t wait to see them on the court.
“Jared’s been a great player throughout his college career, and throughout his high school career; a winning player at every level he’s played, and we believe a winning person,” Ainge said of his first selection in the 2012 draft.
Leading up to the draft, Sullinger had to sit and listen as back problems caused his stock to drop. Had he come out last year, he was a sure-shot to land in the Top 5, possibly even the second-overall pick. But he returned for a sophomore season at Ohio State, and although he continued to put up great numbers, saw himself fall from a lottery pick to the 20′s, where Boston scooped him up.
For Sullinger, listening to the doubters is nothing new.
“It’s been like that my whole life. When I was younger everyone said I was too big going into high school; they said I wouldn’t be able to pay that fast. Going into college, they said I wouldn’t be able to keep up,” he said. “It’s the way I live my life. I’m just ready to get started.”
And those back problems that had everyone talking? Sullinger shrugged them off.
“Honestly, I don’t have any back problems,” he said confidently. “It is what it is; I’m just playing basketball now. I finally have a job, so now it’s time to take the next step and get ready to play.”
Sullinger has plenty to offer a Celtics team looking to get younger, while at the same time competing for an NBA title. He’ll give them a solid presence in the paint, using his big body to clear space under the basket.
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But he said he can offer even more now that he’ll be playing with stricter defensive rules in the NBA.
“With the collegiate defense, you can pack it in (to the paint). I really had to do what the defense (made) me do, forcing me to baseline a lot. Pretty much all I had was back-to-the-basket, because there really was nowhere for me to move,” the 20-year-old explained. ” I can shoot the outside shot, face up, I can on the dribble – there were a lot of things I couldn’t do at the college level because of the defense. We’ll see how this goes.”
Ainge even hinted that the 6-9 Sullinger could be called upon to play some center.
“I think there is not much difference between the power forward and the center position in the NBA. Jared is smart, versatile and strong. I think as he matures and gets stronger, and gains more knowledge in the NBA game, he’ll be versatile enough for both positions,” said Ainge. “He rebounds well enough to be a center and I think he has the ability to play both positions, for sure.”
And Sullinger would gladly play wherever the Celtics ask him to.
“It’s really not about what position you are, it’s about how big your heart is,” he said in true Celtics form. “To me, I feel like I play like I’m seven-foot; with the passion of the game, rebounding and just being physical. Even though I’m 6-9, I’ll be willing to play center if coach asks me.”
It may be early, but it sounds like Sullinger will fit right in with the Boston Celtics.