Sullinger's return to Celts uncertain

Updated: September 30, 2013, 10:48 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger said his surgically repaired back is "not close" to game shape due to the inactivity that followed the February procedure and suggested he was uncertain whether he would be ready for the start of the season.

Sullinger noted he has no limitations with his back as he navigates the final stages of his rehab but said only that the rigors of training camp and the exhibition season will tell him whether he'll be ready when the Celtics tip off the 2013-14 regular season Oct. 30 in Toronto.

"Being out for six months, not playing basketball, it's really tough," Sullinger said. "I got a lot of work to do. And only training camp can help that."

Asked what he needs to do, Sullinger said, "Just get in the best shape as possible. Not playing for six months, then trying to jump into the fire, you have those days where you're really good, then you have those days when you suck. Now I just have to stay consistent."

Pressed on how long he would need to get in game shape, Sullinger said, "I just think that's with time. With training camp, practicing every day, we're back in the full flow. We're going to have games in between that. Only time will tell that."

Asked whether he might miss time at the start of the regular season, Sullinger said, "This is my first time having surgery, so I really couldn't tell you."

He did note, "I have no limitations; I'm full go. I'm back to playing, practicing, taking charges again."

The Celtics took Sullinger with the 21st pick in the 2012 draft. He averaged 6 points and 5.9 rebounds over 19.8 minutes per game in 45 appearances, and had ascended to the starting lineup before his back flared and forced him to endure season-ending lumbar disk surgery in February.

Asked when he expected Sullinger to be ready, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge initially quipped, "[Tuesday] morning," referencing the team's start of training camp in Newport, R.I.

Ainge added, "I don't know. I can't predict that. He's been moving pretty well. I think he's been moving better than I saw him last summer. I think that he needs to get in better shape and just better conditioning. I thought last year he needed to get in better shape, too. That's something that Jared's going to have to work really hard at."

Sullinger declined comment on his ongoing legal situation. The 21-year-old faces charges of assault and battery, destruction of property, and witness intimidation in connection with an Aug. 31 confrontation with his girlfriend.

"I would love to say something about it, but it's a legal matter now," Sullinger said. "And at this point, only time will tell."

Due back in court for a second pretrial hearing Oct. 28 -- two days before the start of the regular season -- Sullinger was asked whether the legal process could be a distraction as he readies for the new season.

"It's not really a distraction as of right now," he said. "Right now we're just focused on basketball, and when that court date comes, then we'll have a distraction that day. But as of right now, I'm just focused on basketball."

Asked whether he was worried the incident might hurt his reputation, Sullinger said, "Honestly, things happen. It was a mistake. But at the same time, this really shows where my character is at, where I go from here."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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