Jared Sullinger removed from Celtics’ starting lineup (again) for being late (again)

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BOSTON – Jared Sullinger was late to the Celtics’ pregame walkthrough Sunday.

“Not a trend. Not a problem,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said in announcing Sullinger would come off the bench against the Heat. “Not a short or long-term problem.”

Sullinger returned to the starting lineup at New York on Tuesday, but in the Celtics’ next home game – tonight against the Nuggets – he was again late to the pregame walkthrough. Stevens again brought Sullinger off the bench.

“It’s a great decision by coach,” Sullinger said.

Sullinger blamed traffic for both incidents, saying he got caught behind a funeral procession Sunday and had an ambulance block traffic today. And while that might be the case, it might not be the only factor.

A reporter asked whether Sullinger was disappointed in himself.

“I mean, it happens. It happens,” Sullinger said. “You was probably late to a game before.”

The reporter responded he had been.

“Was you disappointed in yourself?” Sullinger asked

“Yes,” the reporter answered.

“Answered it right there,” Sullinger said.

Stevens didn’t say whether Sullinger would be fined, but this could hurt Sullinger’s bank account in 2016.

Sullinger’s qualifying offer is slated to be $3,270,004. If he meets the starter criteria – starting 41 games or playing 2,000 minutes next season or averaging those totals this season and next – his qualifying offer would increase to $4,433,683.

Sullinger – who has started 46 of Boston’s 47 games and played 1,352 minutes this season – is likely to meet the starter criteria, regardless. He’s also unlikely to accept the qualifying offer. Still, it’s possible injury or offseason roster changes interfere, and these two missed starts could come back to haunt him.

If Sullinger arrives on time from here, this will quickly be forgotten. The snow that has blanketed the city could explain his uncharacteristic tardiness occurring for consecutive home games, even if a funeral/ambulance/ticket also contributed.

“I hope it’s the last time we talk about it,” Stevens said. “I hoped that Sunday was, too.”