Earlier this week, Jared Sullinger took an awkward fall at the TD Garden against the Atlanta Hawks. He landed with much of his weight on his already wrapped left hand--the same hand that he had just recently reported a deep bone bruise and sprained ligaments. He also said that the injury had been lingering for about a month.
According to ESPN, Sully has been wearing a protective glove in practice lately. In yesterday's game against Chicago, he was sporting a very thick glove.
He noted that the injury hurts mainly when hit in the right spot on the top of his hand. Sully largely downplayed these injuries, and his emphasis on his availability has remained consistent. When asked by ESPN if he intended to play before Thursday's clash against the Bulls, Sullinger responded with a firm "Yes." Subsequently, when asked how the injury is limiting him, he replied, "I don't know. I could care less."
So, should the C's rest Sully to health?
I think his ailing hand was most evident in the Bulls game. First of all, that glove is huge. Sullinger is one of the most reliable pass catchers for the Cs. He has fantastic hands which help him swallow up boards and inhale passes for smooth lay-ins. However, Thursday night he couldn't get a grip on the ball. Multiple times the ball banked off of his hands in what would be an otherwise typical haul for the former Buckeye. He finished the night shooting just 1 for 6. Despite grabbing 10 rebounds (albeit against a strong rebounding Chicago team), it was clear that a healthy Sullinger may have had several more. Ultimately, he finished with a team worst plus/minus at minus 20 in 19:51 on court.
On one hand some may ask, 'what exactly do you have to play for?'. With many already wishing Boston misses the playoffs in hopes of a strong draft pick, the sense of urgency is at an all time low relevant to recent years. There are zero aspirations for a championship this year (provided the most epic, amazing, unbelievable, downright suspicious slew of injuries plagues the NBAs top teams) and the general consensus among many Celtics fans may be to play it on the safe side.
This is not a team on its last run shooting for a title (like we've grown accustomed to watching). This is a non-contending team lacking its star and in need of more firepower if it is to contend. In fact, there is very little reason to even win games. Instead of watching Sully continue to take a beating, sit the big fella and give some PT to the other bigs. This way, Kelly Olynyk--who gave a glimpse of his capabilities against Atlanta--has more opportunity to grow. Showcase Kris Humphries as the attractive trade chip he may be. Cross your heart that Vitor will have a more respectable showing than his abysmal performance in Chicago.
In fact, when contemplating whether or not the C's should sit Sully, the better question I come upon is, why shouldn't the C's sit Sully?
The biggest downside with sitting the big fella based on the lack of urgency required for this season is the engagement Stevens can maintain with his players. If there is nothing to really play for--no championship, no playoff seed, no wins--engagement with players can be tough. Sitting Sully, stretching out Rondo's timetable, and continuing to hear this 'tanking' rhetoric has to get into the minds of some players. This could be seen as beneficial to some (there's hope for PT, Bogans!?) but to others it may just seem like a monotonous wasted year.
Ultimately, I'd have to be inclined to sit Sully. The Celtics achieve arguably nothing (except risk) by playing the young power forward that Roy Hibbert offered may be the "East's Kevin Love". When I turn on the TV to see the Cs take on the Pelicans at TD Garden, I'll be hoping to see Sully sitting on the bench without a green uniform, and without a bulky boxer glove. It's time to play it safe.