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It's been three and a half months since Jared Sullinger underwent season ending surgery for a lumbar disc issue in his back, and the soon to be 2nd year forward is progressing in his rehab.

ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg caught up with Sully at a charity event, and among other things he discussed the notion that back troubles will continue to bother him. He says that's just not true.

"Everybody says back with a question mark, you might as well put an X through that," Sullinger said on Thursday morning at a Stay in School assembly at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena in which the Celtics honored 1,000 local middle school students. "Because I had surgery and I’m taking my time getting back right, it won’t be a recurring injury."

When the Sullinger fell to the Celtics in the 2012 draft, it was because of red flags that popped up regarding his back. Throughout his solid rookie season, in which he averaged 6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, it appeared as though the C's got an absolute steal with the #21 pick. The back surgery obviously cut his campaign short, but according to Sullinger, he was playing injured throughout the season. The back issue was causing him to drag one leg, and effecting how he moved.

"Honestly, when I was playing, I was playing on one leg," said Sullinger. "My right leg was pretty much dead. I couldn’t push off, didn’t have any strength behind it. With the right leg being the way it was, and still being able to produce the way I did, I guess it sets a bit of a foundation, but mentally I know I can play better."

If the back issues are truly behind him (no matter what he says, back injuries are tricky), the above is great news for the Celts. While Sullinger was solid as a rookie, the C's need him to be even better if they're going to compete next season.

For one, his 20 minutes played per game will likely increase, especially if KG is gone, to somewhere in the 25-30 minute range. Sullinger's rebounding rates were fantastic as a rookie as he grabbed 22.1% of all available rebounds while on the floor (16th in the NBA), and 12.6% of all available offensive rebounds (12th in the NBA), and once he went out, the Celts rebounding numbers plummeted. For a team that struggles on the glass, Sully plays a vital role as one of two elite rebounders on the team (along with KG). If the back injury really impacted him as much as he says, I'd expect those numbers to spike, and wouldn't be surprised to see him as more of a 10 and 10 guy next year. Considering the C's lack of big men, that would be a huge development.

As for whether Sullinger will be ready come opening night, the big man told Forsberg that he plans on it.

Maybe by September or October I’ll be 100 percent -- full go

With all of the question marks the Celtics have this summer, it would be nice to be able to cross Sullinger's health off that list. After all, while he may be the youngest player on the team, he plays a huge role and the C's need him at full strength as they begin to turn towards the future.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

Michael Dyer 5/23/2013 03:28:00 PM Edit
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