WALTHAM, Mass. — Jared Sullinger needed some tough love. Thanks to a literal intervention, he got plenty of it from a unique source.
The Boston Celtics forward has shown some positive signs since the team took him in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft. Yet he’s also been held back by injuries and conditioning issues, the latter of which came to a head when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge essentially called out Sullinger for his failure to stay in shape during a February radio interview.
So Sullinger’s family and his agent, David Falk, decided to take matters into their own hands. In May, they led him to his Columbus, Ohio, apartment, where a 61-year-old man named John Lucas II was waiting.
Lucas — a former No. 1 overall pick who was banned from the NBA for drug use and now specializes in helping professional athletes get back on the right track — immediately gave Sullinger a dose of hard reality.
“He personally came down and he told me, ‘You’ve got all the talent in the world, but you’ve forgotten what working hard is,'” Sullinger told reporters at Boston’s media day. “For somebody to come all the way from Houston to Columbus, Ohio, to stop whatever he was doing, meant he was there for me, and that’s what made me go and work out with John.”
Over the course of the summer, Lucas put Sullinger through a rigorous training program in Houston that included boxing workouts, swimming workouts and a strict diet.
“There was one point where I was down in August for two weeks and I didn’t touch a basketball,” Sullinger recalled.
Sullinger still doesn’t exactly look svelte entering training camp and admitted to reporters there is work to be done as he prepares for the regular season. Yet the 23-year-old insists his time spent with Lucas has put him on the right path.
“I think John’s biggest thing, with everything he went through… was to not let me make a mistake,” Sullinger said. “And he wanted to just clear my mind and (help me) understand that I could be whoever I want to be.”
There will be a heavy burden on Sullinger this season to live up to his full expectations. Yet those close to him are hoping their offseason intervention will make that burden a whole lot lighter.
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Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) during media day at the Boston Celtic Practice Facility.