Danny Ainge: 'Terrific year' ahead for Sullinger

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has increased his social media activity in recent months. And one Celtics player on his short list of Twitter follows is Jared Sullinger. So has Ainge seen the photos Sullinger has posted that chronicle his offseason conditioning efforts?

"I skim through it," Ainge said with a smile at Tuesday's eighth annual Shamrock Foundation "Teeing Up For Kids" golf tournament at Old Sandwich Golf Club.

And does he like what he sees?

"My eyes aren’t good enough to see the Twitter pictures, nor do I believe most of the Twitter pictures," added Ainge. "But I’m not worried about that. I know Jared’s put in a lot of work this summer and it’s a big year for him and for us and I’m confident he’s gonna have a terrific year."

All of Boston's players will be in town by week's end for the start of training camp and Ainge will get an up-close look. For now, Ainge is simply excited to get everybody back in the gym together after the strong finish to the 2014-15 campaign.

"We’re anxious to get back, like a kid coming back to school," said Ainge. "I’m anxious to see what it’s all about. We have some new faces that are exciting and I’m anxious to see how much improvement the players have made through the hard work they’ve put in with the coaches this summer."

A handful of other noteworthy nuggets from Ainge's chat with reporters on Tuesday:

Impression of PJ3: Perry Jones III, the offseason addition who is fighting an uphill battle to earn a spot on Boston's overstocked roster, has been working out with the team's younger players this summer. What has Ainge seen out of the 6-foot-11 forward? "Just that he can help us win, same as everybody else," said Ainge. "Perry’s a terrific talent. He’s been in, he works really hard. He’s a great kid, great attitude, and I’m excited to see what he can provide." The Celtics already had 15 guaranteed contracts when they added Jones and must trim to that same number by the start of the regular season in late October.

Working remotely: While noting how he hadn't seen Sullinger in person recently, Ainge stressed that those Boston players that are not already in town are still working hard from afar. Just check out Isaiah Thomas' Twitter as proof. "My experience is that the players work wherever they are," said Ainge. "Some go home and they put in a lot of work. I think we saw on Twitter every day that Isaiah [Thomas] was playing somewhere. I couldn’t keep track of what city he was in, or what gym. But he’s a player. I think it’s important, especially for the young guys, to be around a bit more just to get more familiar with our coaches and how to get around town and learn the terminology."

Young and the reckless: Asked about his impressions of second-year swingman James Young, Ainge remains encouraged despite Young's struggles at summer league. "I thought it was unfortunate that James got hurt again in summer league, but what I liked that I saw from James is he really came out and got the message that defense was important. And he was playing with so much energy on defense and diving on the floor ... I think he kind of wore himself out and couldn’t make a shot. But I loved his effort. He put a lot of time in the gym this summer and I’m anxious to see what he can do. But he’s definitely made strides, with his body, with his game, his maturity, his work ethic. He’s coming along. Last year was a big growth year for him. I thought playing in the D-League he had some ups and downs and he realized it doesn’t come real easy for him. He had some great games [in Maine]. But he had a really good summer. He’s gotten a lot stronger I think he’s made a lot of really good positive steps forward."

Extension accord: The Celtics have three extension-eligible members of the class of 2012 in Sullinger, Jones, and Tyler Zeller. Asked for an update on extension talks, Ainge noted, "I’ve had preliminary conversations with the representatives of those players. We’ll see how it goes in October. We have until the end of October to make those decisions and we’ll see how training camp goes."

Extensions would seem unlikely for a Celtics team big on salary cap flexibility moving forward, but clearly a strong early 2015-16 impression might entice Boston to think a bit harder about a deal.