Pregame: Sullinger starts vs. Heat

January, 27, 2013
1/27/13
12:30
PM ET


BOSTON -- Losers of six in a row, the Boston Celtics will shuffle the deck a bit and move rookie Jared Sullinger into the starting lineup for Sunday's visit from Ray Allen and the Miami Heat.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he's slightly conflicted about the move, particularly given how well the second unit has played recently with Sullinger a big part of the reserves' success. But with Brandon Bass struggling and his team in need of a little shakeup, Rivers will give the rookie a chance with the first unit.

"We're going to start Jared, more just because Jared's playing well," Rivers said. "Honestly, I don't love it because I worry about our bench. Our bench has been off the charts and that may affect them. But we're doing it because he's playing so well."

Rivers wouldn't commit to keeping Sullinger in the starting lineup long term, but admitted it was the right move for right now.

"I just thought our starters needed to shake up the lineup, even though I really am doing it cautiously because I just think at some point our starters will find themselves," Rivers said. "The one thing I always worry about is our bench. Our bench has been off the charts, you know? The thing about the Atlanta game, I think it was a six-point game when they came in and it was 27 when they left and you don't hear that a lot from a bench."

The other worry, of course, is that Sullinger could fall into foul trouble early in games, limiting Rivers' ability to keep him on the floor when Kevin Garnett is out.

"Because the one thing we try to avoid is any point in the game where Sullinger and Kevin are off the floor, and that's the risk you take by starting him," Rivers said. "If [Sullinger] gets in foul trouble and it's Kevin's time, then you're in trouble."

As for the day's big storyline, Rivers was diplomatic about Allen's decision to leave for Miami.

"I was past that pretty quickly," Rivers said. "I told you, he should have stayed and wasn't happy that he left, but I got it. I wanted him to stay here, but if you’re going to leave, that's a pretty good place to go. Eighty degrees and, as Phil Mickelson would say, no state taxes. And playing with three pretty good players that are young. After he didn’t come to us, I had no problem where he went."

Rivers knows fans might not be quite as forgiving.

"As a fan, I get that too," Rivers said. "I understand that."

Allen did not address reporters before Sunday's game; he will hold a postgame press conference.

As for the showdown, Rivers said Boston's struggles diminished Sunday's return of Allen a bit.

"We’ve ruined it with our play. That’s the truth," Rivers said. "It’d be interesting if we were playing great and had a great record, then maybe some of that [Allen hype would be justified]. But right now we have to find ourselves. We can’t be looking for Ray. Right now, we’re talking more about other stuff that’s what we should be talking."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Isaiah Thomas
PTS AST STL MIN
19.7 5.0 0.6 26.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 5.1
StealsM. Smart 1.4
BlocksT. Zeller 0.7