Sullinger's best move may be a return to Celtics on one-year deal

Sullinger's best move may be a return to Celtics on one-year deal

LAS VEGAS – When the Celtics signed Al Horford and let the deadline to waive Amir Johnson’s $12 million contract pass, which guarantees Johnson will remain on the Celtics books and on the roster, there was a sense that would mean bye-bye to restricted free agent Jared Sullinger.
Not so fast!
Multiple league sources told CSNNE.com at summer leagues in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas that the market for big men free agents has dried up significantly and that Sullinger’s best course of action at this point may be to come to terms on a one-year deal with the Celtics.
That would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer when the salary cap will exceed more than $100 million for the first time ever.
But there’s a potential pitfall in this plan.
“How much is he going to play next year?” a league executive told CSNNE.com, adding that his franchise has inquired about Sullinger in the past. “He played what, 20, 25 minutes when they didn’t really have a great rebounding frontline. You add Horford to the mix, how much is Sullinger really going to play? And how will that help his stock if he hits free agency next summer?”
And with him being a restricted free agent (the Celtics made a $4.4 million qualifying offer, which gives them the right to match any offer Sullinger receives), teams know the Celtics can keep him in the fold while tying up their cap space for three days in the process. 
Often teams will structure the contract for restricted free agents in a way that will significantly impact the player’s current team and thus make them less likely to match the offer. In addition, they tend to pursue players that appear to be more likely to not be re-signed. 

But Sullinger's restricted free agent status is only part of the reason why teams have been relatively lukewarm in their interest. 
For as long as he has been a Celtic, his conditioning has been a topic of discussion.
Because of that and his restricted free agent status, it has made teams hesitant to try and sign him.
But one league executive pointed out how Sullinger is one of those players where you have to get past the public perception of him being this out-of-shape player with talent and pay attention to what really matters, which is his play.
“With him, the issue isn’t whether he can help your team and be productive. He can do that, easily,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “It’s whether he can do it long enough. Jared is a player that a lot of teams like. But if you’re going after a restricted free agent, he’s gotta be a guy that you love.”
Last season, Sullinger appeared in a career-high 81 games, with 73 starts. He averaged a team-leading 8.3 rebounds in 23.6 minutes.
The 6-9 forward also chipped in 10.3 points on 43.5 percent shooting from the field.
Those numbers are comparable to what he has done in each of his four seasons with the Celtics.
The only real issue at this point is whether he’ll continue to deliver, as he has in Boston, or will his talents take up shop in another NBA city?

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on he knee looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how and if Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves! on Tursday the Pats made deals with LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom Curran discuss how despite these moves, the Patriots should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”