|Photo: Boston Globe
When Celtics president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, publicly criticized Jared Sullinger for his poor conditioning last season, Sullinger made it his mission to get in better shape over the summer.
Shortly after the Celtics were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs last year, Sullinger returned home to Ohio to visit family and in doing so walked into an intervention -- one staged by his family and his agents. But one face Sullinger didn't recognize in the room was John Lucas II, a coach who flew in from Texas just to talk to Sullinger about his future. The two would get to know each other very well over the summer.
"You have all the talent in the world, but you forgot what working hard is," Lucas told Sullinger.
"For somebody to come all the way from Houston to Columbus Ohio, [stopped] whatever he was doing. He was there for me, and that's what made me go and workout for John," said Sullinger.
Sullinger almost spent his entire summer with Lucas, he made trips to Texas every month. And ended up spending a total of 11 weeks in Texas, going back and forth weeks at a time.
"What didn't I do? I was down there in Houston with coach and a lot of rookies - I went from boxing to swimming to on-the-court basketball to on the track," Sullinger said. "I did so many other sports other than basketball. There was one point where I was down there in August for two weeks and I didn't touch a basketball. He wouldn't let me. We just got in shape in other ways. It was a lot of fun."
Lucas sure knows a thing or two about interventions. He played 14 years in the NBA while battling a drug and alcohol addiction. He was nearly kicked out of the league for good before agreeing to get treatment. But spent the latter years of his career as a journeyman; playing for different teams year after year. Lucas now helps players who suffer from addiction, and trains athletes to get into shape.
"With everything he went through - being the first NBA player to be kicked out of the NBA [for] drugs, I think John's biggest focus was to not let me make a mistake," Sullinger said. "Sometimes it's not always drugs, it can be other things. And he wanted to just clear my mind and understand that I could be whoever I wanted to be, I've just got to make the right choices."
Sullinger chose not to disclose exactly how many pounds he lost but stated that he did lose some weight. But if you're going by the old fashion eye test; he looks about the same and admitted that he's not where he wants to be, yet. So, we'll have to see how effective Lucas' conditioning training was for Sullinger when he hits the court. But he did say that this is the best he's ever felt heading into preseason.
Lucas also worked with Sullinger on his offense. He made it point to get Sully in the paint and working on his post moves. At media day, Sullinger shared a story about a time when Lucas grew frustrated with Sullinger's jump shots during a pick up game.
"John cussed me out -- big-time," Sullinger said. "I shot it four times in a row, made all four, and John stops the whole open-gym process ... and says, 'Get your big (expletive) on the block. Stop trailing for jump shots and get on the block.' That right there was my biggest wake up call."
This will be a crucial season for Sullinger, who's up for an extension before the Oct. 30 deadline. If his contract is not extended by then, the Celtics will have until next summer to decide if they want to part ways with Sullinger or make him a part of their long-term future.