The rookie forward made an appearance at TD Garden on Wednesday and expounded on his recovery from back surgery, which he underwent two weeks ago. Upbeat but clearly itching to play, Sullinger described a recovery that, so far, seems pretty boring.
Sullinger cannot work out or engage in any physical activity aside from sitting in a recliner at a 120-degree angle or driving short distances. He has been brushing up on “Call of Duty,” catching up on movies and tweeting with regularity, but not much else.
Still, he was not complaining. After he was forced to leave the Jan. 20 game against the Kings early when he felt a tweak in his back, Sullinger said things went downhill fast. The “excruciating pain” only worsened overnight.
“The next day, I couldn’t walk,” Sullinger said. “The only reason I walked was off of pure determination to get to the hospital.”
As Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted shortly after the injury, Sullinger and his family had known for a while that he would need a procedure on his back at some point. Sullinger suffered his first back injury in 2011 in a game against Duke, he said, although it was believed he would not need surgery for another two or three years from now. Instead, doctors at New England Baptist Hospital looked at his test results and scheduled surgery immediately.
“They didn’t come in saying, ‘We think you should have it,’” Sullinger said. “They came in saying, ‘We’re going to have it.’ I never thought about playing through it.”
As Sullinger described it, the surgeons removed the herniation in his spine from the bulging disc, and until the disc scars up and gets set into place, he is stuck playing video games.
The most challenging part of the road ahead for Sullinger, Rivers said, will be mentally adjusting to not getting ready to play or work out every day. Sullinger said he has procured a chef and a nutritionist to keep his weight from fluctuating while he is seat-ridden and has maintained his sense of humor through the ordeal.
“In the long term, I think I’ll come back better, because the doctor told me that the discs being herniated would only make my legs weaker,” he said. “So, hopefully, that’s a sign I may be able to get off the ground more than two inches when I come back.”
The Celtics would take him back, two-inch vertical or not, whenever he is ready.