Jared Sullinger is keeping a Celtics diary this season. Here he discusses what the Celtics need to do to start winning more, his favorite all-time media question, and the best Christmas gift to give. Plus, he weighs in on Hoyer vs Manziel for his hometown Browns. As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
Frustrating. Very frustrating is the word I’d use to describe that losing streak. Most of those games we were either up or right there and we needed to find a way to close them out. It’s frustrating because we all want to win. The best way for me to get over a loss is I call my mom, dad and two brothers. We talk about something other than basketball.
Luckily, the NBA helps us handle the losing because they schedule the next game right away within a day or two. It’s nice to get back out on the court so quickly because in college if you lose a game on Saturday, you won’t play again until Wednesday or Thursday. The beauty of the NBA is if we lose on Saturday, we may play on Sunday.
I know we have to close out these games. There’s really not a bigger problem than that. We have to close out games better and play better basketball. We just have to do everything better. I know Coach [Brad] Stevens talked about physicality and toughness after our loss to the Hawks. He calls it as he sees it. We have to play tougher. If a coach calls you out for your toughness, the only thing you can do is come out and play tougher.
On the positive side, we’ve been playing as a team for a little more than a month into the season and our team chemistry has been great. Everybody understands what we’re doing. Everybody understands what we need. Even though we haven’t been winning, every game we’ve been getting better and better. Something else that is positive is I like talking to [Hall of Famer and current Celtics broadcaster] Tommy Heinsohn. He will ask about what’s going on out there on the court and then he’ll tell me what he sees out there. He’s been a lot of help to me.
I try to talk to the media after a game win or lose. After a loss, half the time I really don’t want to talk to the media but it’s a part of my job. To live the dream that I’m living right now, I have to do everything that’s required. The question I get asked the most lately by the media is about what’s going on in the fourth quarter. I tell them we have to play harder, smarter and to play better in order for us to win.
I do have a favorite question I was once asked though. When I was in college, the best question I was asked was where I got my booty from. My answer was I got it from my mama. We don’t get too many bizarre questions because players nowadays won’t answer just anything anymore. Instead they’ll say, “Next question.”
Before our win against the Pistons, our last win was against the 76ers. There was no added pressure or anything to not be the first team to lose to them. Those guys on that team are pro athletes as well. We just focused on winning a basketball game. At the time, I called that game a must-win because we hadn’t been winning. Now every game is a must win for us because of the games we lost and the games we gave away. We needed to figure it out, play better and get that win.
I had also said playing that game was like playing a Game 7. Playing with that mentality for an entire game is kind of hard, but at the same time you know what you have to do to win a basketball game. You know what you have done in the past to win basketball games. The bottom line is finding a way to win.
Beating Detroit in overtime showed the togetherness this team has. It showed the passion we have for the game. We understand that a win can help the ball start rolling more in that direction. This win helps us understand what we have to do. Plus it was great having Marcus Smart return from his injury. He’s another energy giver. He plays hard on the defensive end. He makes plays on the offensive end. As I said, he’s an energy giver. December has just begun and what I’d like to see us do this month is make sure we close out games.
Time to talk about some off-the-court items. Since I’m from Ohio, I’ve mentioned before how the Browns are one of my favorite teams. I definitely need to comment on the big decision that Brian Hoyer will continue to start at quarterback and not Johnny Manziel. I agree with the decision because you can’t really take Hoyer out like that. I mean, he’s 7-5 this season. He’s been doing well. You can’t make a switch like that when you’re trying to make the playoffs. I can understand changing if it were the first two games of the season, but now he’s carried them through the first 12 games of the season. So you might as well ride it out.
Something else I wanted to mention is I got involved with the Celtics Stay in School program. I wanted to get involved with this because I have two educators in my household in my mom and dad. My mom is a math teacher at South High School back home. My dad was a sociology and physical education teacher. Now, he substitute teaches. When you have two educators in your household, you really can’t mess up.
As an athlete, I think I have the chance to be a pretty good influence when I speak to kids like this. But at the same time, I let them know the truth. We all grew up differently. Some people grow up wealthy and others grow up without a lot of money. I was one of those kids who didn’t grow up with a lot of money. But I didn’t let me being in the neighborhood I grew up in influence who I wanted to be. I tell kids that all the time that the neighborhood that you’re in doesn’t define who you are. Look at education as an opportunity to get up out of that environment if you don’t like it.
That message about how you’re not always a product of your environment is usually the main point I make a the end. I tell them also to look around because someone sitting next to you might become a doctor or a lawyer or the person who cures cancer. At the same time, don’t let that person out-work you. If you look at it like that, everyone will succeed at that school.
Since Christmas is coming up, I’ll leave you with this advice: Gift cards are always the best. Because if you don’t know what to get somebody, give them a gift card and they can get what they want. For me, the only people this year who are getting something are my mama, my nephew, and my three nieces. I’m tired of shopping for my brothers. I’m not sure the rest of my family knows they’re not getting anything, but I guess they will if they read this!