By Marc D'Amico
November 6, 2012
WALTHAM, Mass. – Is Jared Sullinger the next Kendrick Perkins?
When it comes to skill set, absolutely not. But if you ask Kevin Garnett, there are some very important similarities between Boston’s rookie power forward and its beloved former center.
Jared Sullinger has drawn praise for his play on the court and his personality off of it.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
“He reminds me a lot of Perk, man, when Perk was here,” Garnett said on Tuesday. “Obviously he’s not the defensive player that Perk was, but his IQ, moving the ball, being unselfish… he’s a great teammate.”
Perkins was one of the best teammates to ever walk through Boston’s locker room. He came into the league as a raw 18-year-old center who wasn’t particularly great at anything, but over time he grew into a man. He turned himself into the smart, unselfish, defensive-minded center who started alongside Garnett during Boston’s championship season in 2007-08.
Tears were shed when Perkins was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 24, 2011. That’s how great of a teammate he was, how strong of a player he was, and how much the rest of the Celtics loved being around him.
To draw comparisons to a former Celtics player like Perkins is impressive in its own right. When that comparison comes from someone of Garnett’s stature, it puts the comment in a whole other stratosphere.
“It means a lot, especially coming from Kevin,” said Sullinger, who received his first career start Saturday night in Washington, D.C. “When Kevin gives anyone praise, I mean, he really likes you. So it’s a blessing.”
A player needs to do everything the right way in order to spur a comment like that from Garnett. In his five-plus months as a Celtic, Sullinger has done exactly that.
Ask anyone who has run into the 20-year-old Ohio native since he was drafted on June 29. From his teammates, to his coaches, to front office personnel, to fans, everyone has been floored by his down-to-Earth personality and his commitment to improving.
Sullinger’s comments on Tuesday prove that point even further. He graciously accepted Garnett’s comments when notified of them, but concluded his response with this: “At the same time I’ve got to keep working. And that’s pretty much my motto: Just keep working.”
Sullinger also understands his limits. He’s grounded and knows that he needs to use his mind more than anything to become a successful pro.
“For myself, I’m not the strongest, I’m not the fastest, I’m not the most athletic,” he said, “but if I can think the game and be one step ahead of everybody else, it kind of puts you in those right positions.”
This is a rookie talking? He sounds, thinks and plays like a seasoned vet.
You’ve heard how smart he is, but listen to this: Garnett called Sullinger’s basketball IQ “unbelievable” while describing the youngster’s characteristics. He also said Sullinger is a “no-nonsense guy” who “does his job.”
As Sullinger told us today, he began developing those traits before most children are even enrolled in kindergarten.
“My dad helped me out with that at an early age,” said Sullinger. “There’s times where we were watching a basketball game and he’s telling me who created that shot, and he’s teaching me all of these things. So it was at an early age, when I was like four or five, and from there it just carried over.”
Sixteen years later, Sullinger is rocking a Celtics uniform and is now being compared to one of the integral pieces to Boston’s most recent championship team. It’s high praise, but it’s well deserved.
Celtics fans miss Kendrick Perkins, but they will grow to love Jared Sullinger.