Jared Sullinger had an intervention of sorts last summer thanks to John Lucas, the trainer/recovery guru who has recently been hired by the Houston Rockets as head of player development. Lucas challenged Sullinger to get in shape, putting him through rigorous workouts in Houston and changing his diet. In an interview with the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett, though, Lucas said that Sullinger still has some serious work to do on that front:
"I told him, 'People don't trust you, and you want to be trusted. You have to give them something to trust you. You have to give them a reason to trust you. You've almost got to let them know,'" said Lucas, who recently was hired by the Rockets as head of player development.
"I called him when the season ended, and he said, 'Coach, I don't know if I can do all that work again like that.' And I said, 'It's the only way you're going to make it.'"
"Jared still hasn't figured out who he wants to be, and when he does, he's going to take off," Lucas said. "He's still fighting anybody and everybody about who knows best. He'll give in to a point, but he won't... let... go. And if he'd ever just let go and accept what people are telling him, I think he can be great. I love his talent. I haven't seen a lot of guys with his talent.
"He's really highly talented. He's got 3-point range. He played well. But I think the Celtics were concerned about his weight all year."
Lucas went on to suggest that Sullinger has "some kind of food intolerance or some other thing," and that he must "investigate more what dictates his weight." Bulpett reported that the Boston Celtics didn't extend his rookie contract after he worked with Lucas because they didn't know if he'd be able to stay in shape. Last week, they renounced his rights and made him an unrestricted free agent. On Monday, he agreed to a one-year deal with the Toronto Raptors.
Boston coach Brad Stevens is saying all the right things about Sullinger, telling ESPN's Chris Forsberg that he's a "really good player" and it "stinks" to lose him, but signing Al Horford meant the organization had to make difficult decisions. The Boston Herald, however, reported that the Celtics essentially decided to move on months ago, and there was no real interest when they talked about trading him.
Sullinger is hardly the first player to struggle with weight problems. Draymond Green, Marc Gasol and Kevin Love are just a few examples of those who overcame them. Four years into Sullinger's career, though, his deal with the Raptors illustrates that the league is not sure that he will.
In a summer where many role players signed long-term deals with salaries starting at over $10 million, Sullinger took the mid-level exception -- $5.6 million -- to go to Toronto, per the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat. In his time with the Celtics, Sullinger proved that he is a great rebounder, a good passer and a solid midrange jump shooter. In one-on-one defensive situations, he's pretty good, If he had the exact same skills, but there were no worries about his weight, the Raptors would not have been able to sign him.
Sullinger is still just 24 years old, so Lucas' comments are not exactly damning. They do help explain why he did not benefit from the salary-cap spike like so many other free agents did.