In his Summer Quandry 13, Lee made a very good case for the most valuable people on the Celtics being the coach and GM and I think his argument has merit. Their roles will indeed be the most important in building the team for the future if they are to become contenders again. Although I think this team will be fun to watch, I'm not deluded enough to believe that they will contend for a title as constituted. But, with all the assets and chips that Danny has gathered, I think he's heading in the right direction. With Brad Stevens tied into a 10 year contract, his ability to coach in the NBA will certainly be a factor in whether they proceed to the next level as well.
In the article, Lee puts Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green at the head of the class as the most valuable players for the Celtics this season. It's a no brainer to say that Rondo has to step up as both a player and a leader since he is the lone remainder from the Big 3 and the Championship run in 2008. A good cohesive point guard and coach combination is crucial to building a team. How Rondo works with Brad Stevens and how he takes on the leadership role will be crucial to this rebuilding effort.
Another player that Lee mentions in SQ13 is Jeff Green. We have seen flashes of Green's potential over his career so far but the biggest knock on him is that he has been very inconsistent. In OKC, he was playing out of his natural position and having to play 3rd fiddle to Durant and Westbrook. Then came the trade and he was getting used to an entirely new system on a new team. Then it was the heart surgery. Last season he seemed to come into his own after the All Star break and hopefully he can build on that. I'm really hoping he can raise his game to yet another level so that I don't feel so bad about giving up Perk for him.
I would add another option for the Celtics MVP this season, and that would be Jared Sullinger. Since his arrival, he has become one of my favorites. The story his dad told about benching him in high school because he didn't do his homework won me over. It wasn't just the benching, it was that he learned from it and became a better teammate. Since that, pretty much everything I've read about him and have heard from him have just solidified my opinion of him.
For instance, last week PR Newswire posted an article about how Jared is partnering with Provost Academy Ohio to promote a tuition free online education option for students in grades 6 through 12. Sullinger played two seasons with the Ohio State Buckeyes and, according to the articl, is currently completing his college degree in sports management online to fulfill a promise he made to his mother, a math teacher at South High School. There are three more points in his favor. One, he knows the value of education and he's not a quitter. Two, he made a promise to his mother and he's keeping it. What's not to love? Third, his mom's a math teacher. Us math teacher moms have to stick together.
Last season, I was thrilled with his play early on. He knows how to rebound and that is something that is very important for a team to be contenders. Think of it this way, Red's teams in the early years had great scorers and they had a great point guard in Cousy, but they never won a championship until they got a great rebounder in Russell. It was unfortunate that Sully's rookie season was cut short for back surgery, but in the end I think it will be a good thing. He will be a much better player without being hampered by the back problems and now that the back problems are behind him, the sky is pretty much the limit for him.
He is already stepping into a leadership role this offseason. While we have yet to hear from most of the players on the team about the trade sending Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets, Sully has stepped to the plate and voiced his opinion, showing his awareness of the team's position and of the crop of young players coming up as well, both befitting of his major in sports management.
“I thought what we did was big,” said Sullinger. “When we traded Kevin, Paul and J.T., it kind of helped us out because we got nine draft picks at the end of the day. Those are big-time draft picks, especially with this class coming up and the next following year.”
One thing that would make Sully the MVP might be completely separate from his performance on the court. We all have heard the interviews with Rondo where he gives one word answers and even though he's gotten better through the years, he's still not the most open player to interview. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and last year Jason Terry, were always the ones in the spotlight giving the wordy and entertaining interviews. That took some of the weight off of Rondo.
But with Pierce, KG and JET in Brooklyn, Rondo now becomes the longest tenured player and the player on whom the mantle of leadership has fallen. Jeff Green is also a bit reticent when it comes to interviews. That's where Sully comes in. He is very willing to talk to reporters and is entertaining and outspoken. The fact that he speaks his mind and you know what you get is from the heart reminds me of Perk. The fact that he could be put front and center for interviews would take a lot of the pressure off of Rondo to be charming and witty at the podium. Sully can be the foil to his straight man. Perfect duo.
In a recent interview on Fox 28 Ohio, Sully talked about watching Lifetime movies during his early recovery, the possibility of starting, playing for new coach Brad Stevens, Kris Humphries as a teammate (which he couldn't mention without laughing, his promise to finish college, Provost Academy, and a few other things. One statement in the middle of the interview got quite a bit of attention. Danny Ainge has been saying that Rondo was expected back in training camp but in his interview, Jared mentioned that he was hoping to have him back by December. That gives a new timetable for Rondo's return than any we have been given by the Celtics' leadership.
Rondo returning in December makes sense for a few reasons. We all know that this is a rebuilding year and that Danny has a handful of picks in what is promising to be a strong draft next season. We also know that the players on this team are not going to tank. They will lose their share of games due to being young and because of all the new players on the team, but they are going to play hard every night. Humphries is in a contract year. Wallace needs to try to rebuild his value after an off year. The Celtics young players are going to want to prove that they can play in the league. Vitor Faverani will want to prove he can stay in the NBA. And the new head coach isn't the type to lay down and roll over either. November is going to be a very tough month for the Celtics and so giving Rondo some extra time to rehab and come back 100% just makes sense. The Celtics can play hard early but rack up s few losses for those ping pong balls. Rondo will be assured of being completely healed. And then they can play better later and make the fans happy building up a few more wins. Seems like a win-win to me.
Whatever happens with the team and everyone else, I'm going to predict that Sully will be very important to the team. He will give the team a strong rebounder, something they desperately need. He will also take some of the pressure off Rondo as a leader and handle some of the interviews and press. I'm expecting a big season from Sully. He'll be free of the constraints of a bad back and he's hungry to show all those teams that didn't pick him in the draft that they made a mistake. As for me, I'll be on the Sully bandwagon and by the end of the season, I expect it to be full.
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