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Jared Sullinger Injury: Back Troubles Are Bad Sign for Rookie's Career

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 4:  Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after making a shot against the Indiana Pacers during the game on January 4, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Mike MoraitisAnalyst IFebruary 1, 2013

It's safe to say that the Boston Celtics are having the worst week ever.

After losing star point guard Rajon Rondo for the season thanks to an ACL injury, now Boston will be without its rookie forward, Jared Sullinger, for the remainder of the 2012-13 season after what was initially thought to be something as harmless as back spasms.

Here are the details, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

"Boston Celtics rookie forward Jared Sullinger will undergo surgery on his injured back and miss the rest of the season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports."

This came as a huge surprise to fans considering both head coach Doc Rivers and the team's president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, didn't see any severity in the injury before this devastating news broke, per an ESPNBoston.com report.

Here is what Rivers had to say on Thursday:

"No, I'm not that concerned," Rivers said before Thursday's practice. "Could he miss games? Like I said [Wednesday], here and there he may. But it's not anything career-threatening or anything like that."

And, here's the quote from Ainge:

Ainge, meanwhile, told Boston sports radio station WEEI on Thursday: "Sullinger is just getting tests done. He didn't practice today. He was still sore today and [with] back spasms, you just never know. They really are day to day, and we're hoping that he has a quick recovery and gets back soon."

Upon entering the NBA, many had questioned Sullinger's ability to be an inside presence capable of scoring down low and grabbing rebounds, but Sullinger has done a great job proving people wrong thus far in his career.

Sullinger has made a definite impact off the bench for the Celtics this season—namely as a scorer and consistent rebounder—and had recently earned a shot with the team's starting five.

The 20-year-old rookie has averaged six points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while showing he can certainly hang on the defensive end.

The biggest concern about Sullinger, however, was the fact that he had back problems in college. It was such a concern that Sullinger's stock fell from what was once a top-10 certainty to the No. 21 pick that landed right into Boston's lap.

At the time, the Celtics figured they were getting a steal that late in the first round, and early on, it looked like they were right.

But these back problems that have apparently carried over from college to the pros are a bad sign for his future in the NBA.

The last thing any big man in the NBA wants to have is a back issue—especially at such a young age. For Sullinger, it's only 45 games into his rookie campaign and already he's broken down, going from back spasms to what turned out to be a season-ending injury.

It won't get any easier for Sullinger moving forward as his position on this team demands that he be physical in the low post, whether it be in his attempts to score the basketball or playing defense and rebounding.

Back surgery can be tricky, and sometimes it can lead to lasting effects for the rest of a player's career. Thankfully for Sullinger, he is still very young, and younger bodies tend to heal better than most others.

It remains to be seen if he will return better than ever next season and if he will ever be able to have a successful NBA career while avoiding these back issues year in and year out.

If these problems persist, Sullinger would be wise to start developing a better mid-range game and not spend so much time in the paint where his body is taking a beating. That changed approach would go a long way in keeping his back healthy for the long haul, but considering the position he plays, that is far easier said than done.

It's a shame that Sullinger's rookie season has been cut short since he has showed so much promise on a team in desperate need of youth that can carry it into the future. Let's just hope he can recover fully from this and continue to improve as he has done this entire season.

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