Celtics

Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Like every other member of the Boston Celtics roster, Jared Sullinger wants to be on the floor as much as possible.

But two games into the Celtics’ preseason and it seems the 6-foot-9 big man has accepted the fact that his opportunity to play his way into a major role may not come right away.

Sullinger has seen action in each of Boston’s first two preseason games, but there’s no way to ignore the reduced role he has played in both games.

But in those games -- both wins -- Sullinger made his presence felt with the kind of efficiency that speaks to his ability to impact a game in a relatively short period of time.

After two games, Sullinger ranks 12th on the team minutes played (13.4) per game.

However, he is the team’s fifth-leading scorer at 10.5 points per game.

That’s double figures scoring in a little more than one quarter of work.

Now that’s instant offense.

“I just want us to win,” Sullinger said following Sunday’s practice. “If that means me cutting back my minutes, that means cutting back my minutes. The ultimate goal is to win basketball games. As a team, as a unit and going forward, it’s a long season. You never know what’s going to happen. You have to stay ready.”

One of the biggest concerns for the Celtics coming into this season was Sullinger’s conditioning which has been an issue even before he was drafted by Boston with the 21st pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft.

 

That didn’t prevent him from establishing himself as one of the league’s top young forwards. Injuries kept him sidelined for significant chunks in two of his first three NBA seasons, but Sullinger still saw enough action to where his talent and potential to be a high-impact performer were undeniable.

In 177 games (98 starts), Sullinger has averaged 11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

However, things are quite different heading into this season.

Since Sullinger arrived, the competition for minutes has never been as wide open and tightly contested as this year’s fall camp.

David Lee and Tyler Zeller have been the team’s starting bigs in each of the first two games.

The big man bench rotation has consisted of Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Sullinger.

With the Celtics having a roster that can play small at times and still be effective, there’s a good chance that there will be nights when Boston uses only four or five bigs instead of six.

Having Sullinger not see action at times this season is definitely a possibility, but the way he has taken control of games offensively in very short bursts of time … it’s hard to envision having a player with that skill sit on the bench for an entire game.

Sullinger seems intent on avoiding the potential distraction of talking too much about a lack of minutes coming his way this season.

“I’m not here to make it a rivalry (with other big man teammates),” Sullinger said. “When my number is called, I have to be ready to play and do what I’ve been doing for the past three years.”