We always knew Jared Sullinger was becoming his own worst enemy.
After falling to the 21st pick because of back issues (and having subsequent surgery to clear them up) Sullinger showed promise as young player. He basically averaged 13 and 8 for two seasons… before a stress fracture in his foot cut his third season short.
In one of those seasons, his father cussed him out for not being his best.
“He came up and cussed me out,” Jared Sullinger told Basketball Insiders of his father. “I was thinking he had to tell me something or he wanted me to talk about how everything was going because he seemed worried about me. But instead the conversation just started off – well, his conversation started off – and I was just saying, ‘Yes sir. Yes sir. Yes sir.’ I was kind of in shock. He was telling me my body language sucks, my attitude sucks, I’m disrespecting the Sullinger name the way I’m acting on and off the court, and when he says off the court he means on the bench.”
When it came time to get a new deal, Sullinger’s weight was enough of an issue for the Celtics to consider a weight clause in a potential restricted free agent offer. At the time, Danny Ainge said…
“He’s not up to the standards he wants and it’s not up to the standards we think are in his best interests for the long-term health of his career,”
Ultimately, the Celtics cut ties with Sullinger so they could sign Al Horford. At the time his dad seemed resigned to the fact that things were falling out of Jared’s control
Told that the Celtics haven’t ruled his son out, Satch Sullinger said, “Not sure that would change anything for him. He has to make up his mind about what’s important But if you’re going to stand in the way of progress, then get out of the way. . . . All I know for sure is that the signs aren’t good. Even if Phoenix kept him, that wouldn’t have made it any better for him. He still has to face himself.
“As a dad, man, it hurts. But water seeks its own level. It’s up to him.
That was basically the end for Sully. He lasted 11 games in Toronto before falling out of the NBA entirely. He went to China, but that didn’t even work out.
“I wasn’t an NBA basketball player when I left the gym,” he said now. “I was still a kid, and I really fucked it up.”
“I was young and I got tired of people telling me what to do,” Sullinger said now of his years in Boston. “I was trying to be a man and, in reality, I was still a boy. I was living on my own and paying my bills and buying my own food and buying my own clothes and I had a lot of money.
“It’s not their fault, but growing up I had two older brothers and my dad and my mom, and being the youngest, I never got to tell anybody what to do or be able to write my own passage. For the first time, I got to write my own passage, and instead of going the way I thought it would go, it went the way everyone around me said it would go. And now look at me.
Success is hard for some people to handle. I can understand how Jared Sullinger had enough of everyone’s advice once he got to the league. He was the most successful basketball Sullinger in a family full of basketball success. He’d made it to the NBA. He was a starter. He was on his way, doing it his own way.
At the same time, I can see how someone’s inability to control himself can cause a spiral like this.
He basically admits in that Athletic piece that he’d finally had enough of being told what to do all the time. Even though they had good advice, he was basically holding up a middle finger as he ate himself out of the league.
Sullinger is not alone in those kinds of struggles. Pardon the cliché’ but admitting that he screwed up is the biggest possible step in a return to the NBA.
He has NBA-level talent. He can rebound and pass very well for a big man and if he can ever get that three-point range down, he’d be a valuable bench player for someone.
He’s still only 26. He’s got time to get himself to a point where he can get back into the league. He can go to the G League. He can go to Summer League. There is an easy path for him if he puts the work in.
It’s easy to look at someone and say “stop eating so much” or “eat better.” It’s hard to be in that situation where you don’t care enough about yourself that you do things that you know are unhealthy. That’s where this all starts for Sullinger.. finding a path where he cares about himself enough to make positive changes.
I’ve always thought Sullinger can return to the NBA. I hope this admission is the beginning of his path back.