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Friday, February 1, 2013
Rapid reaction: Sullinger out for season

By Chris Forsberg

Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty ImagesCeltics rookie Jared Sullinger underwent back surgery Friday and will miss the rest of the season.
Rapid reaction after the Celtics announced rookie center Jared Sullinger underwent lumbar disk surgery Friday and will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season:

* WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS: The Celtics won't get much sympathy around the league, but the injury bug continues to feast on Boston. News of Sullinger's season-ending surgery Friday comes hot on the heels of Rajon Rondo's surprise diagnosis of a torn right ACL on Sunday. Boston lost two starters in the span of five days, and suddenly, the Celtics have a 13-man roster in which two players are out for the season and their once-bountiful depth is being tested (where have you gone, Darko Milicic?!).

* AGE AIN'T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER: For all the hoopla about Boston's advanced age in recent seasons, the past two campaigns have seen the team's youngest players fall victim to the most serious maladies. It was then-21-year-old Avery Bradley who was lost in last year's playoffs due to shoulder woes, while then-25-year-old Jeff Green missed an entire season due to a heart ailment. This year it's 26-year-old Rondo and 20-year-old Sullinger lost at midseason.

* RED FLAGS WERE THERE: For the first 44 games of the season, the Celtics were able to celebrate landing the steal of the draft. Red flags had forced Sullinger to fall from a potential lottery pick into Boston's lap at No. 21. While the team announced it expects Sullinger to be ready for the start of training camp next season, the league's worries about Sullinger's ability to stay upright were justified. The lingering question is whether Sullinger's back will remain an issue moving forward or whether this surgery might stabilize the issue long term.

* WHO WILL STAND UP? The Celtics were still deep at the guard spot after the loss of Rondo, and have installed a ball handler-by-committee of Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to defray his loss. It's not quite as easy up front without Sullinger. Brandon Bass can slide back into the starting role that the rookie had recently taken over, but the depth is mighty thin there. Top reserves behind Bass and Kevin Garnett are Jason Collins, Chris Wilcox and rookie Fab Melo, who hasn't played a single NBA minute. The Celtics were already in the market for big-man help, and that need only grows with the loss of Sullinger.

* WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE? Even after Rondo went down, the Celtics were resigned to trudge ahead despite their roller-coaster play through the first half of the season and kept their eyes on lofty championship goals. Can the team overcome the loss of Sullinger as well? With the trade deadline looming a mere three weeks away, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge must quickly decide the best path for his franchise. Does he look to add some established talent to mask the loss of Rondo and Sullinger, or does he turn his attention to the future when those players will be back on the floor?