Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boston Celtics [Print without images]

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Sullinger remains in flagrant trouble

By Chris Forsberg

Boston Celtics center Jared Sullinger was whistled for his third flagrant foul in the past two nights and is back on the cusp of a suspension with his next violation.

Sullinger got tagged with his latest flagrant-1 foul for making contact to the head of the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin during the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 111-105 loss at the Staples Center. Despite having one of two flagrant-1s from Tuesday's loss in Denver downgraded earlier in the day, Sullinger is back at five flagrant points and is in line for a one-game suspension with his next flagrant foul.

Sullinger pleaded that he tried to pull back on Griffin while defending a baseline drive with 10 minutes to play, but referees deemed it a flagrant-1 after video review.

Before Wednesday's game, Sullinger apologized for the second flagrant, which led to his ejection, on Tuesday.

Sullinger got tagged with a pair of flagrant-1 fouls 23 seconds apart in the third quarter of Tuesday's loss to the Nuggets, earning an automatic ejection. Upon league review, Sullinger's hard two-handed foul to prevent J.J. Hickson from getting a layup in transition was downgraded from a flagrant-1 to a personal foul.

But Sullinger landed an elbow to the face of Kenneth Faried on Boston's ensuing offensive possession and that flagrant was upheld upon review, even as Sullinger admitted Wednesday that it was an unintentional product of frustration from Boston's recent lackluster play.

"The second one, I didn’t really mean to go for [Faried's] head," Sullinger said. "I thought, honestly, I was going for his shoulder, to try to get a little chicken wing off. I was not trying to go for his chin or his cheekbone. That was a total mistake on my part, a miscalculation on my part. Overall, I just want to apologize on that one.

"Also, when you lose by so much, that’s one of the reasons [for frustration fouls]. And also when you go on a losing streak, you kind of get frustrated with yourself because you try to play as hard as you can to put your team in a position to win, and it just seems like the ball’s not rolling in our favor. You get real frustrated. But my problem was I wore my emotions on my sleeve instead of keeping it internal."

Is Sullinger worried about developing a reputation as someone who gives hard fouls, something that could work against him with referees more apt to tag him with the flagrant designation (maybe as evidenced by Wednesday's latest infraction)?

"Not really worried about the reputation, honestly," Sullinger said. "I’m just out there trying to protect my teammates and make sure we're in the best possible position to win a basketball game. Instead of just giving two points [on Tuesday's first flagrant foul], I decided to take the foul, but you just have to be more careful. You have to wrap him up maybe, or not be so aggressive with it maybe. I don’t know."

Added Sullinger: "I was always taught -- growing up in an old-school household and watching old-school basketball, I just thought it was a good, hard foul. But you have to be smart about it now."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he wasn't overly concerned with Sullinger developing a reputation for unnecessary contact. Stevens has encouraged a physical brand of defense, but within reason. He noted that Sullinger, a 21-year-old second-year player, is still young enough to "change his reputation in a positive manner" regarding hard fouls.