BOSTON — Jared Sullinger was grabbing a drink near the Celtics’ bench, taking a break from his pregame shooting routine about an hour and a half before tip-off Wednesday, when he was asked about his upcoming weekend off in February.
“The what?” he replied.
A few hours earlier, the rosters for the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge — better known as the rookie-sophomore game — were released, and Sullinger’s name was not among them. His omission was a surprise, since Sullinger is fourth among rookies in rebounding and double-doubles while ranking only 13th in minutes played, but the Ohio State product did not seem offended or even aware of the snub.
“I don’t play for the All-Star games,” Sullinger said. “I don’t play for the money. I play for the love of the game. That’s just me. I hope the way I play, that shows through.”
Earlier this month, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett treated Sullinger’s invitation to the midseason exhibition as a foregone conclusion. Celtics coach Doc Rivers thought so as well, although he said Wednesday that Sullinger will have plenty of chances to participate in NBA All-Star weekend over the next decade or so. Shortly before the rookie-sophomore players were announced, an NBA.com writer went so far as the wonder if Sullinger is the offensive key for the Celtics now that Rajon Rondo is out for the season.
The Rising Stars game itself is a weird event now in its second year of existence. Rather than pit first-year players against second-year players, as in the past, the league’s assistant coaches select 18 players to put in a pool. Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal then draft those players for the unimaginatively named TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ, respectively.
Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Tyler Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Alexey Shved and Dion Waiters were the rookies chose for the pool.
On the parquet, Sullinger took a last swig of his drink, casually tossed his wax paper cup and shrugged. He saw the silver lining: The five-day break his exclusion from the showcase affords him.
“It gives me a chance to rest up for the second half of the season,” Sullinger said. “With no Rondo, roles are going to be increased a little bit, so I’ve just got to get prepared for the second half of the season by taking that weekend off.”