Jared Sullinger might have just received his free ticket to a lucrative career in Boston. After Wednesday night’s loss to Toronto, captain Rajon Rondo approached coach Brad Stevens and asked to play with the second-year big man “as much as possible”. Coming from the assist magician, Sullinger should consider himself very lucky.
Five of Rondo’s assists resulted in Sully baskets on Wednesday night, including all three fourth quarter treys that nearly sparked the comeback win. Sullinger has struggled mightily from behind the arc since dislocating his finger in January. Wednesday’s 4-5 three point performance was the best we’ve seen of him this season. Sullinger has come off the bench for over a month now and hadn’t reached the 20 point mark since the first week of February.
But the Rondo-Sullinger relationship extends far beyond Sullinger’s three point shooting. It’s well documented how smart of a player Rondo is and his tantrums with less-intelligent players are also well reported. In watching Sullinger the last two seasons, I have seen glimpses of a guy that stands out for his smarts. Even when his offense isn’t there, Sullinger has still been able to impact games. With his wide frame and bruising style of play, he provides a great pick-and-roll option and a steady contributor on the boards. But the area that Rondo praised Sullinger most was in his outlet passing. In today’s faster paced game, outlet passes are becoming a bigger and bigger part of each game. The young Celtics clearly wanted to use their youth to their advantage and get out on the break. Without a dominating post-presence, half-court sets have been a struggle this year. With an elite outlet passer, like Rondo considers of Sullinger, the Celtics can get out and run.
No matter the reasoning, when the captain speaks, we should at least listen. With just eleven games remaining in the year, it will be interesting to see if Stevens employs the duo more often and to what results. And if that three falls consistently? We could have a premier inside-outside pairing on our hands.