The cult of Jared Sullinger is growing fast in Boston.
The rookie power forward out of Ohio State slipped down the draft board because of injury reports and because he’s not as athletic, he doesn’t play above the rim like some of the guys taken in front of him. But he can play — he’s crafty and scores in the paint. The Celtics players and fans like what they see.
But he’s a rookie and Brandon Bass is a quality NBA veteran. And signs point to coach Doc Rivers leaning veteran when he has to pick an opening night starter against the Miami Heat, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
Rivers has said his starting lineup will likely fluctuate depending on the foe and the type of player opponents choose to start….
As good as Sullinger has been in the preseason, seeing him matched up with LeBron James to start his NBA career might be classified as cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, Bass did arguably as good a job as any of his Boston teammates in defending James during their matchup in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
Bass is experienced, he can handle the big stage — and opening night on national television playing a Heat team raising a banner is a big stage. While Sullinger has looked good in the preseason and earned the love of his teammates, he hasn’t yet played an NBA game. His reaction to the moment remains an unknown.
As Blakely notes — Rivers knows he can trust Bass. He’s starting to trust Sullinger, but it’s not the same. Not yet.
Opening night may well go to Bass as the starter. Now, opening night of the playoffs six months from now could be a different story entirely.
The Detroit Pistons’ playoff dreams hinged on them being able to hang around until point guard Reggie Jackson got back from this thumb and knee injuries. They have done just that — the Pistons are 11-10 and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs started today.
And now they get Jackson back. Stan Van Gundy made the announcement Sunday at shootaround, before the team takes on the Orlando Magic.
It will take a few games to get his conditioning back, but this is huge for Detroit. Jackson running the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond is at the heart of Detroit’s offense – the Pistons were 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with the ball in his hands. Ish Smith played well for the Pistons in his absence — 10.8 points per game, 6.4 assists, and he’s been solid. Move his playmaking to the second unit and suddenly the Pistons become a lot more dangerous.
The scouting report on Jakob Poeltl coming out of Utah said he could run the floor well and he was a good finisher around the rim.
But we didn’t expect this.
During the Raptors win Sunday against the stumbling Hawks, Poeltl filled the lane on the break, got the rock, and nobody was going to stop that finish. Least of all Tim Hardaway Jr., he just ends up in the poster.
Entering free agency last July, Hassan Whiteside said his first choice was to stay in Miami — then Pat Riley gave him 98 million reasons to stick around. While the Heat have been up and down this season, Whiteside has thrived as the franchise player in Miami.
Last July he also met with Dallas, but it turns out that was not his second choice. Here is what Whiteside told Erik Gunderson of the Miami Herald before his team fell to the Blazers on Saturday.
“Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Portland. “I would have came here.”
Interesting. There were reports the Blazers chased Whiteside, but it didn’t seem that serious. Apparently, it was. If The Blazers got Whiteside, would they still have spent $70 million on Evan Turner? Probably not. And suddenly a lot of things look better in Portland.
For Blazers fans, watching their team try to outscore opponents while playing terrible defense this season — in part because of a lack of rim protection behind their undersized guards — it’s easy to imagine how much Whiteside would have changed the picture in the Northwest. But at this point, that’s just fan fiction.
JaVale McGree has become a solid contributor for the Warriors off the bench, giving them a needed shot blocking presence. He’s not getting a ton of run (seven minutes a night), but he’s efficient when he’s out there.
Still, there is his reputation as the guy most likely to end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool. He hasn’t done anything like that for a while… until Saturday night, when after a made free throw he tried to inbound the ball for the Suns for a second.
The Warriors bench was laughing under their shirts and towels.