Once upon a time, Jared Sullinger was considered a surefire lottery pick. He probably would have gone in the top five if he’d declared in 2011, but he stayed at Ohio State an extra year, battled back problems and fell to the Celtics at No. 21 in the 2012 draft. Since then, his career has been up and down, showing promise as a rebounding/energy guy in the frontcourt but marred by inconsistency and lack of conditioning.
This summer, Sullinger’s family took that part into their own hands, staging an intervention of sorts and convincing Sullinger to work with former NBA player John Lucas. Lucas, who battled cocaine addiction before getting clean and becoming a motivational speaker for professional athletes dealing with issues, worked with Sullinger at the behest of his agent, David Falk, and his father.
“It was almost like ‘Dr. Phil’ that day,” Satch Sullinger said. “Are you going to accept this help or not?”
Lucas’s message to Sullinger was simple.
“You have all the talent in the world,” he said. “But you forgot what working hard is.”
It wasn’t just about eating right and exercising; it was about being accountable. It was about things like meeting people at a restaurant at 3:30 when you say you will. The fact that Lucas had traveled all the way from Houston to offer his help resonated with Sullinger.
Lucas eventually asked Sullinger if he would come to Texas, if he would dedicate himself to the program. Sullinger did not hesitate in saying yes.
Sullinger is up for an extension to his rookie deal before October 31, but it’s unlikely he gets one unless he takes a steep discount. He hasn’t been consistent enough over his first three years in the league to prove that he’s definitely a piece of the Celtics’ long-term plan, although hopefully if Lucas’ teachings stick, he can develop into that.