Boston Celtics: 2014Practice
October, 6, 2013
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonThe Celtics close out practice Sunday with 5-on-5, halfcourt work.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Eight months and eight days after a season-ending back injury left him hobbling off the TD Garden floor, Celtics forward/center Jared Sullinger will resume game activity on that same parquet when Boston opens its exhibition slate with a visit from the Toronto Raptors on Monday evening.
"It's going to be cool," said Sullinger, who tried to shift the focus to how a new-look team will respond than his first game action in 251 days. "Honestly, we’re just working on our game as a team and trying to get team chemistry."
Sullinger, the 21st pick in the 2012 draft, recently had ascended to the starting lineup when the same back that left other teams leery and allowed him to slide to Boston in the draft flared, chasing him from the court after just four minutes during a win over Sacramento on Jan. 30. Sullinger underwent lumbar disk surgery the next morning and spent the next six months limited in activity as he healed. Even as he works on improving his conditioning after the layoff, Celtics coach Brad Stevens stressed that there are no other limitations on Sullinger entering the first game of the preseason.
Asked how he feels after five days of workouts to open training camp, Sullinger said, "Good; every day getting in better shape. I can tell, throughout practice, I’m starting to survive a little bit more as the time goes on. So I just have to keep working."
Pressed on his conditioning, Sullinger added, "Everything feels great, but conditioning -- I've got to get in better shape. Being six [or] seven months off and just coming right back in and trying to play with these guys that have been working out all summer and played the whole NBA season last year, I’m just a tier under everybody right now as far as conditioning."
One thing Sullinger has stressed is that he's not worried about his back. He said he cleared that mental hurdle earlier the summer. At the moment, he's excited to get physical with someone that's not in a green jersey.
"I’m happy to be out there and finally get to bang against somebody else besides Kelly [Olynyk] or Vitor [Faverani] or Kris [Humphries] or [Brandon] Bass or even Jeffrey [Green]," Sullinger said. "It’s going to be a lot of fun."
Sullinger averaged 6 points and 5.9 rebounds over 19.8 minutes per game in 45 appearances as a rookie. He's part of Boston's crowded frontcourt, but said he's fine with Stevens' plan to mix and match lineups this week as the team tries to figure out exactly how its frontcourt rotations will look when the regular season arrives.
Read on for more practice notes, including how the team is eager for a game, Avery Bradley is ready to lead and Stevens rolled up his sleeves after practice: