The buzzword attached to 20-year-old Sullinger and his ability to make an immediate impact at the NBA level is "IQ." Rivers and Celtics players can't mention Sullinger's name without mentioning his court smarts.
Said Kevin Garnett: "Sully is a very intelligent player. Very, very high IQ basketball."
Rivers echoed that sentiment when asked to pinpoint what has allowed Sullinger to distinguish himself early in camp: "His IQ. He doesn't think like a rookie, he thinks like a veteran. He plays at great pace, he’s one of our best rebounders, he can pass the ball -- so he does a lot of things that help our team."
But the biggest compliment might have come from point guard Rajon Rondo.
"[Sullinger is] probably the smartest rookie we've had since I've been here," said Rondo. "He's very intelligent, high basketball IQ, and he's very unselfish. He doesn't need a play called for him. He's been getting his points just off the little dirty work."
Sullinger started Sunday's game in Milan and, at the end of practice Wednesday, was running with the first team during skeleton drills. Rivers said he'd start Sullinger again later in the preseason as the Celtics tinker with lineups trying to find the best fits for when the games really matter.
As for his basketball smarts, Sullinger credits his family.
"Having a father [Satch] like that, he was always explaining stuff," said Sullinger. "You're watching basketball as a little kid, he's explaining what's going on. [I was] always attentive in practice as a young kid when I used to watch my brothers play. They taught me at the [Division] 1 level as well, because they both played D-1. Julian played at Kent State, J.J. played at Ohio State, so just learning from those guys. All three of them are like my dad, so they all helped me become the man I am today, so I've got to thank them for that."
Sullinger also couldn't help but admit that playing with the starting unit makes him look smart at times.
"It's easy when you've got greats like that playing with you," said Sullinger. "They make the game so much easier, so I can't complain. They tell me to do something and I do it. Most of the time they're never going to put me in a situation where I'm going to fail, so it's easy to play with those guys."
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