WALTHAM, Mass. — Fear not, fans of Gerald Wallace’s compulsive, brutal honesty. The veteran forward’s season is over, but he might have lent the rest of his truth serum to Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger was straightforward Tuesday when asked how the Boston Celtics are approaching the final 22 games of the season. They are mathematically — though not realistically — alive for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Injuries are mounting. They have lost six of their last seven games.
He knows exactly what some people might expect from this team. But it’s not going to happen.
“The biggest thing is, teams where we’re at right now can really just kind of give up and say, you know what, forget this season, let’s try again next year,” Sullinger said. “I don’t think any of us are thinking like that, and it shows in our play. Every night, we come out, and we play hard. We’re always in the game. We’ve just got to make two or three more plays a half, and we’ll come out with the outcome of winning the game.
“I don’t think anybody wants to give up on this season. Everybody’s out here playing hard, and everybody’s trying to get better.”
Following a relatively light schedule in February, the Celtics have a tougher road upcoming, competition-wise. Of their 14 games remaining in March, 11 are against playoff teams. Next up is the scary Golden State Warriors, who have scored more than 100 points in nine of their last 11 games. The month concludes with a pair of home-and-homes against the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls, two of the gutsiest squads in the NBA. Those clubs won’t find a walkover in Boston, however, coach Brad Stevens pledged.
“Well, that’s a story to be told, right?” Stevens said. “You’ve got to not (quit). At the end of the day, your DNA should be to play the next game as well as you possibly can. If you let your circumstances control your thoughts, you’re probably not going to be good in the long run anyways. We’ve just got to continue to have the right attitude, to continue to compete.”
Stevens comes from the college ranks, where coaches love to remind anyone in the room of just how smart they are. Often, an interview with a decorated college coach turns into a soliloquy on his 14 points of excellence and blah, blah, blah.
If Stevens has a motivational speech about not packing it in, he didn’t break it out Tuesday.
“You’re a professional with a job to do. I’m a professional with a job to do,” Stevens said. “You do your best every day. That’s what you’re paid to do. Sometimes, that’s not good enough. Sometimes it is.”
Stevens might not have a secret, but the players appear to have heard his message, however simple it is. Numerous players showed up to the team’s practice facility on the off day Monday, he said, to work out or put up some shots. They continue to put in the work despite the team’s record, following their coach’s lead.
“That’s a testament to Brad, honestly,” Sullinger said. “He hasn’t given up. He’s coaching his butt off. He hasn’t given up on us, and I think this team has bought into his system, has bought into his coaching style.”
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