Celtics

That's all for Sullinger

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That's all for Sullinger

Earlier this week, we learned that Jared Sullinger had been passed over for a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend. And upon hearing the news, the city of Boston's general reaction fell somewhere in the middle of anger and shock.

No Sully? NO SULLY?!

And then everyone got over it. After all, we were talking about the Rising Stars Challenge, a game with no meaning whatsoever, and one that we'll all declare a joke after five minutes of fast break dunks. Still, it hurt to see Sullinger get snubbed (he should have made it over Tyler Zeller). It was the principle. It was the knowledge that if anyone on this Celtics team deserved any recognition, it was the rookie out of Ohio State. He'd worked so hard. He was so ready and willing to learn. He was a sponge. He was improving by the game, and already more than capable of holding his own. He had the NBA's most devastating ass since Rick Mahorn.

Even if it didn't really matter, Sullinger deserved a spot in that game

And I just assumed he'd get there:

"But here's the good news," I wrote on Wednesday. "He'll probably make it anyways. I mean what would All-Star weekend be without at least a handful of players dropping out with injuries? We already saw it with Rondo, and it won't end there. Chances are that at least one of these nine rookies will turn an ankle or bang a knee over the next two and a half weeks."

Blah.

At this point, we'd all more than welcome a sprained ankle or bruised knee for Sullinger. We'd prefer to hear that he's going to miss a few weeks after being attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Anything but his back. Anything but the only reason that a player with his talent dropped so far in the draft. Anything but the worst-case scenario.

But that's where we are. Exactly one week after Rajon Rondo became the first player in NBA history to tear his ACL without anyone noticing, we learn courtesy of the arch angel of basketball death that Sullinger needs surgery on his once-again ailing back, and will miss the rest of the year.

What's this mean for the Celtics?

Well, Brandon Bass will likely see a bump in minutes. Jeff Green might have to play a little more power forward. They've called up Fab Melo, so maybe he'll see some run? If there was ever a time to bite the bullet and extend an offer to Kenyon Martin, you'd have to think that time is now. (UPDATE: I somehow forgot to mention Chris Wilcox. Then again, Doc has forgotten about him a bunch this year, too.)

But for right now, concerns over who will fill in for Sullinger pale in comparison to the emotions surrounding the fact that they need a fill-in at all. That it's his back. That it's going to be a long time before he is back. And the other questions: Does it stop here? Is one surgery and eight months on the shelf the only thing standing between Sullinger and a happy, healthy career? Or is this just the beginning?

It's too early to speculate. Especially since, at this very moment, optimism is hard to come by, and common sense suggests a future that no one wants to accept. Either way, life was a whole lot easier when a meaningless Rising Stars snub actually meant something.

And when all those teams who passed on Sullinger were still overly cautious suckers.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

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Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

BOSTON – When Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about what he saw in the team’s newest (10-day) addition Jarell Eddie, his response was, “shooting … shooting.”

Indeed, shot-making has been the one area of play that has been problematic for the Celtics most of this season.

Boston comes into today’s game against Orlando (13-32) shooting just 44.8 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA.

In the month of January, Boston has been even worse, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots which ranks 29th in the league this month.

While the addition of Eddie had more to do with the recent flu bug that has made the rounds throughout the Celtics lineup and the uncertainty a couple days ago surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder (it has improved and he’s expected to play today), adding Eddie speaks to a greater problem – guys making shots – that has to be addressed in some capacity sooner or later.

Boston always has the option to pursue a trade. They also have an $8.4 million disabled player exception they can use on free agent players, with the most likely pool of talent that they will choose from consisting of players who would have been bought out by their current teams.

Or there’s raiding the G-League for talent, which is what they did in signing Eddie to a 10-day contract.

Regardless, there’s a growing sense that this team has to add more scoring punch to the mix or at a minimum, improve the overall offensive execution of the roster as it stands now.

“We have to do our stuff better,” Stevens said. “The start of the season it was predictable, losing Gordon (Hayward who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season-opener) and having to adjust. The middle portion of games we were pretty darn good. And then I thought we were reasonable in London, reasonable against New Orleans. But the other three of the last five games, we weren’t very good.”

Boston’s offense should get a boost from Irving’s return to the lineup after missing Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia with a sore left shoulder.

And while it was just one game, Irving understands the challenge that lies ahead in getting Boston’s offense to play better and more consistently.

“We have very unique talents on this team,” Irving said. “When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

Marcus Morris has been one of the players who has been in and out of the Celtics lineup because of a sore left knee.

However, the schedule has eased up to where he’ll be able to play more games, for longer stretches.

He comes into today’s game having scored in double figures each of the last three games.

“I’m just trying to get healthy. I know what I can do,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “My confidence is always going to stay high, no matter if I miss or make shots.”

In the last three games, he has averaged 15.0 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play of late is promising, it doesn’t diminish the concern Boston should have for an offense that for the most part, has been sputtering this season.

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Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

WALTHAM, Mass. – Kyrie Irving was able to participate in all of Celtics practice on Saturday and is expected to be back on the floor when the C's host the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

Irving did not play in an 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday because of soreness in his left shoulder.

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He will continue to receive treatments for the shoulder, “but I’m just ready to go back out there and play,” Irving said. “I’ve had a few days to reset and do the things needed to put myself in a great position to go out there and play.”

Irving said earlier that the shoulder had been bothering him for a couple weeks and an overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday didn’t help matters.

Still just 25 but recently named to his fifth All-Star team, Irving’s return could not come at a better time for the Celtics.

Boston (34-12) has the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the C's are riding a two-game losing streak, which is only the third time this season they've lost back-to-back games.

Arguably Boston’s biggest issue in the loss to the Sixers was an offense that struggled in several phases.

Not having Irving available certainly made matters worse, but there were a number of elements of play that with Irving or not, coach Brad Stevens recognizes his team must make a significant improvement in if they are to remain among the top teams in the NBA.

Stevens talked extensively after the loss and again on Saturday about the team not playing hard enough on offense.

“I don’t want to take away from the teams we’re playing against. They’re really guarding us hard,” Stevens said. “But we’ve got to execute harder. The one thing that’s pretty obvious in person and when you watch on film, is we just didn’t play hard enough on offense which is kind of unique. That’s the way I felt.”

Irving said there needs to be an increase in emphasis on their offense, which would make the game easier for everyone.

“Our spacing, our cutting … just playing the game kind of within the game, understanding our talents and where we can make the game easier,” Irving said. “We have very unique talents on this team. When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

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