WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics second-year big man Jared Sullinger is no stranger to having his father watching his practices. The way the younger Sullinger sees it, at least he can't boss him around any more.
Satch Sullinger took in Boston's practice Thursday from the balcony outside Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge's office. Asked about having dad watching from high above, Jared Sullinger playfully noted, "He doesn’t coach me any more. He's my father, finally. Thank the Lord."
Satch Sullinger coached his son at Northland High School in Columbus, Ohio. He stepped down in 2011, in part to watch Jared Sullinger's escalation to the pro game (starting with his two seasons at Ohio State).
Since his Dad didn't have a whistle, Jared Sullinger relented that it was actually pretty neat to have him at practice Thursday.
"It's kind of cool," said Sullinger. "It's always been my dream and to see him upstairs watching me practice at an NBA level is pretty cool."
Jared Sullinger is averaging 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists over 25.6 minutes per game this season. He tops the Celtics in plus-minus (plus-51 overall) and has been the most consistent two-way player recently. After back surgery ended his rookie season in January, even Sullinger admits his steady sophomore play has been a bit of a surprise.
"I thought there were going to be a lot of curves coming into this season," he said. "I thought there were going to be a lot of down games, if you know what I mean, with low energy and maybe a little stiffness. But I haven't really had one as of late, so that's pretty shocking considering what I'm coming off of."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Sullinger was pretty far into his rehab by the time he was hired in July, noting that Sullinger nearly got cleared around summer league, but suffered a minor calf injury that was likely a compensation coming off the back surgery.
"What I am surprised with is how quickly he’s picked up being an effective 5-on-5 basketball player because that’s where the rust comes into play when you get back on the court with four other guys," said Stevens. "He’s never had an issue with that and I do think he’ll continue to get better. He’s in a really good spot, from a playing standpoint."
One thing that isn't so surprising to Sullinger: His team being in first place in the Atlantic Division with an 8-12 record.
"I knew we could do it," he said. "I have total confidence in my teammates. I have total confidence in this coaching staff."
Wait, so Sullinger figured the Celtics would thrive even after dealing away Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce?
"Without a doubt," he said. "I mean, they're just as human as us. I have confidence in my teammates, and we play together, first and foremost. Any given night, anybody can go off."
It was Sullinger making a clutch step-back jumper to help the Celtics fend off the Milwaukee Bucks the other night. No doubt making his father proud.