Among those pieces is a rather rotund young big man out of THE Ohio State University who has fallen from being heralded as the "Kevin Love of the east" (back when Love was in the west, obviously) to playing only 15 minutes a game in what has turned out to be a horridly unproductive preseason.
And while some, such as Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com, have pointed out some positive aspects of his play, specifically his passing, the fact remains that Sullinger has rarely seen the court during the preseason, and has not impressed in the time he has seen.
Sullinger has showcased high-level passing skills during the preseason while operating on the block. Most recently, he dished out three assists during just 13-plus minutes of action as Boston downed Brooklyn 111-105 Monday night.
Sullinger's struggles, both on the court and off (Sullinger's weight issue has been well-publicized, though people often forget about the domestic violence charge he incurred just prior to his sophomore season) lead us to a question that may have been unfathomable when we were touting him as the centerpiece of a Love-to-Boston trade; is Jared Sullinger no longer in the Celtics' plans?
It is a question that has no simple answer. For sure, the team is frustrated with Sullinger's conditioning and commitment, as echoed by Danny Ainge after Sullinger was diagnosed with a fracture in his foot during last season, via Brian Robb of Boston.com:
Jared and I have talked a lot about [his conditioning] over the past year," Ainge said. "It’s something we take great pride in with our players. Our players have really bought in to our program and a lot of guys – I think every guy has met the goals that they have set in regards to strength and conditioning, and body-fat, and weight, and all the different things our strength coaches do on a regular basis. Jared just hasn’t met his goals.
And even though Sullinger had a well-documented offseason regimen, he eschewed working out in Waltham with his teammates to stay closer to home, and, presumably, closer to his father, former coach, and hype man, Satch.
But beyond whatever personal issues the organization has with their former 21st overall pick, the preseason slate has raised perhaps an even greater concern for the young big man -- he may just simply be a bad fit for a roster that has made what skills he has redundant, and seems to have placed a premium on tools he lacks.
In acquiring David Lee from the Warriors in the offseason, the Celtics essentially added the player whom many hope Sullinger can become -- a big man with great touch around the basket, superb passing skills for the position, and a nose for the basketball that will help make up for the lack of rebounding the team receives from Tyler Zeller (whose 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes are below what one would hope to get from a starting center), who seems entrenched as the team's starting 5.
The key difference is, Lee has proven to be capable of providing those things consistently, over a heavy workload of minutes, while Sullinger's lack of conditioning has limited him to well below starters' minutes despite a talent level that would behoove such a status.
Brad Stevens has proven he will play the players who perform, regardless of salary or draft status. And with Lee producing the way the Celtics have always wanted from Sullinger, Olynyk providing a shooting touch Sully has proven he cannot bring to the table, and newcomer Amir Johnson offering the sort of rim protection the ground bound forward is incapable of producing, the reality begins to set in.
It may just be that the former Buckeye's time as a meaningful contributor in green has come to a close far sooner than anyone expected.
Photo Credit: Genius.com
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