After three solid preseason games inspired talk of Sullinger
cracking the Celtics' starting lineup during the regular season, along came
Monday's exhibition game in Philadelphia. Sullinger played like the rookie he
is in nine uneven minutes and finished with nine points and five rebounds, with
only one of those rebounds coming after the first quarter.
The statistics were only part of the story. Sullinger got in
the way of Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce — literally, like when he bumped into
Pierce in the first quarter — and had trouble scoring over Lavoy Allen and
Spencer Hawes. Well before concern arose over Sullinger's back, pretty much
every scout surmised that the 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward would have difficulty
scoring over taller, more athletic defenders. The 6-foot-10 Allen and 7-foot-1
Hawes are not incredibly athletic, but they were long enough to give the rookie
One bad preseason game does not mean Sullinger will never
pan out as an NBA player, just as three good preseason games did not mean he
was the second coming of Dave Cowens. This was merely a reminder that while the
Celtics could add a physical dimension by including Sullinger in their
rotation, they will have to deal with some occasional growing pains as well.
This Bass Is a Keeper
While Sullinger struggled, the man whose job he is poised to
take played another solid game. Brandon Bass hit four of his first five shots,
and finished with 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. Although Bass and
Sullinger's outings looked similar on paper, they were worlds
apart on the court. Bass knocked down a few jump shots, as usual, and also flowed through
the offense whether Rondo or Jason Terry was running things. The
seven-year veteran is going to produce for the Celtics, whether he starts or
comes off the bench.
Size Doesn't Matter — Except When It Does
The lineup possibilities seem endless for the ultra-deep
Celtics. Doc Rivers has imagined pairing Jeff Green and Pierce or sticking
Rondo, Terry and Courtney Lee on the court at the same time. He has mentioned
Sullinger possibly playing center or Kevin Garnett going back to power forward
temporarily with Darko Milicic manning the middle. All that is missing from the
coach's mad experiment is Rivers screeching, "It's aliiiiiiiiiiive!"
Those kooky lineups could do some fun things, but they are
not without trade-offs. Hawes exhibited that perfectly with a dominant
performance, scoring 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting (plus 5-of-6 from the free
throw line) and collecting eight rebounds and four assists on Monday. Following
in the large footsteps of Knicks center Tyson Chandler, Hawes victimized the
undersized Sullinger and the slow-footed Milicic to reveal the deficiencies in
Boston's "small" groupings. Hawes is an underrated big man who
completely alters what the Sixers are capable of offensively, but any time his
name appears in the same sentence as "dominant performance," there is
some cause for concern.
The Big Ticket Takes a Seat
Garnett took the night off, with Rivers explaining to reporters that he was
giving the 17-year veteran a rest on the first leg of a back-to-back set. The
Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday as they continue a stretch
of five games in seven days.