WALTHAMAlthough Kendrick Perkins didn't put up big numbers while with the Boston Celtics, he brought something to the floor that the C's definitely needed.
Rookie Jared Sullinger isn't the same kind of player, but he too has shown the potential to have a similarly important, but stealth-like impact this season.
"He reminds me of Perk," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "He's not obviously the defensive player that Perk was, but as far as IQ, moving the ball and being unselfish, he's a great teammate."
Perkins, who was the starting center on Boston's 2008 title squad, was traded to Oklahoma City in 2010.
When told about Garnett's comparing him to Perkins, Sullinger responded, "Kevin doesn't give anybody praise; it means he likes you, I guess."
There's a lot to like about Sullinger, who continues to prove that him slipping to No. 21 in last June's NBA draft will be remembered as a gaffe on the part of several GMs.
Coming off his first start of the season at Washington, Sullinger will likely get the starting nod again when the C's host the Wizards on Wednesday.
On Saturday against Washington, the 6-foot-9 burly forward had four points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot.
But like Perkins, numbers don't do justice to the impact that his mere presence had as a positive for the Celtics.
"Jared understands what we're doing. He's a no-nonsense guy," Garnett said. "The young fella comes in, does his job, does what you tell him."
And the message for Sullinger these days is two-fold: rebound and defend.
Rebounding hasn't been much of an issue, especially on the offensive glass where he has already distinguished himself as the best player the C's have in that category.
Although he's eighth on the team in minutes played this season, Sullinger ranks second (five) in offensive rebounds, and eighth overall among rookies.
But like most first-year players, his defense is very much a work in progress.
And work is what he appears to be all about these days, evident by him being among the last players off the floor after most practices.
Sullinger seems to understand that for him to be the kind of player he envisions himself developing into, he must continue to work on his game.
"I feel really good," Sullinger told CSNNE.com. "Just have to understand my role, and that's rebounding. Scoring is going to be there at times, but right now everything has to go through Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo and Kevin (Garnett)."
Looking at the talent that's around him, Sullinger has no problem being a role player.
"Every basketball team, you have your superstars and then you have your role players who really came into their own," he said. "You just have to know who you are playing with."
The C's certainly know who they are playing with in Sullinger - a rookie who is wise beyond his years.