BROOKLYN, NYWhen Jared Sullinger slipped down to the Boston Celtics on draft night, there was a sense that the C's were stealing a top-10 talent.
Not only has Sullinger proven himself worthy of being a regular in the starting rotation, but he's taken a step further and has positioned himself to be a starter.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has not decided whether to start Brandon Bass or Sullinger at power forward.
But the more Rivers talks about that position, the more he sounds like a man who at the very least is leaning towards giving the starting nod to Sullinger.
When asked whether he likes Sullinger with the starters, Rivers said, "I do. I don't know if that's the way I'm going to go, but I do like that.
Rivers added, "and I like Brandon with the second unit because he gives us another scorer, a guy who can play."
The evolution of Sullinger from the disappointment of draft night into a potential starter for a title contender as a rookie, speaks volumes about how he has taken all the criticism and questions about his health and responded with the only thing he can to silence them - play great basketball.
"He still has a lot of work, but he does a lot of good things," Rivers said. "He has a veteran mind; does not play like a young guy, except he makes rookie fouls, he does things. But he's just a good spirit. It's good to have him in the locker room."
And it's even better having him on the floor.
As much as his success during the preseason can be attributed to shear talent, Sullinger is quick to say that his willingness to embrace the teachings of all of the team's veterans - and not just the big men like Kevin Garnett - has been vital to his early success.
"You have to come in, you have to learn," said Sullinger, who then rattled off the name of just about every Celtic player older than 25 years of age as someone who has helped him thus far. "You got so many things you are hearing, so many things you are soaking up, you have no choice but to be better everyday."
But as impressive as Sullinger has been, Rivers is still noncommittal on him or Bass as the team's regular starting power forward.
"Having said that, I don't know what type of team we have," Rivers said. "And I'm not sure we'll have a set lineup this year. I think there will be nights where they will have a quick four (power forward) and we'll start Brandon. And there will be nights when they don't, and you start Sully."
Starting or coming off the bench, it doesn't matter to Sullinger.
He's just happy to help anyway he can for a Celtics team that was quick to dismiss the questions surrounding his health and selected the two-time All-American with the No. 21 overall pick.
"It was a blessing in disguise," Sullinger said of being passed over by more than half of the league. "The way this team is made up, how close knit we are, it's helping me out tremendously."