Training camp is on the way. A start of a new era for the Boston Celtics. New head coach, new team, new philosophy. So many questions on the horizon waiting to be answered. So the last thing Brad Stevens wanted to wake up to on September 3rd was a phone call telling him Jared Sullinger had been arrested.
The police report said that during an argument on Saturday 31st August with his girlfriend, Sullinger had repeatedly pinned her down after she accused him of having an affair. He then shattered her phone and left for a preplanned flight to Ohio.
Sullinger appeared in Waltham District Court and pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery, malicious destruction of property, and witness intimidation.
This summer was supposed to be about Sullinger recovering from his back injury. Instead it's about him cleaning his tarnished off-court reputation.
After appearing in court, Sullinger released a statement saying that the incident was “humbling and embarrassing for me. Yet I know that this situation has brought both sorrow and embarrassment to my girlfriend, my family, the Boston Celtics organization, my teammates and my fans. To all of you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
The important thing for Sullinger now, regardless of the verdict in his court case, is to show that he is truly sorry. He must show remorse and demonstrate that he is going to build his bridges. The Boston Celtics after all pride themselves on their professional reputation, and they have been less than forgiving with incidents like this in the past.
Terence Williams was released by the Celtics in June while legal proceedings against him were still underway for brandishing a gun. Danny Ainge had said that it was a numbers issue that led to Williams' release, but the allegations will have made the decision substantially easier.
The Celtics demand professionalism from their players, and rightly so. When you're trying to craft a worldwide reputation, the last thing you need are players who are unable to live within the boundaries of the law.
So how will Sullinger be punished? That remains to be seen. If he's given a prison sentence, the Celtics will probably terminate his contract immediately. But right now it looks like Sullinger is attempting to paper over the cracks. NESN has reported that he has started seeing a counselor, and his girlfriend has joined him in requesting that the no-contact order be lifted.
Right now Sullinger's girlfriend has moved to Ohio, where she is able to speak to him over the phone. They can only meet in person if a third party joins them.
So at least for now, Jared Sullinger is attempting to fix his relationship with his girlfriend, and seeking help in order to put an end to his off-court troubles. A suspension from the Celtics could be waiting for him, but it's something he'll have to do with. The important thing is he comes back ready to play basketball.
While recovering from his back injury, Sullinger said he was forced to find himself. Perhaps he didn't like what was staring back at him in the mirror every morning. This is a massive test for him, but he'll succeed as long as he learns lessons from it. The only one who can help him do that is himself.