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Celtics notebook

Jared Sullinger supports higher NBA age limit

DALLAS — Jared Sullinger spent two years at Ohio State before going pro.

The Celtics forward wouldn’t mind if more college players were in school for at least that long before they could be able to make the same move.

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“It would be better for the college game in general,” Sullinger said recently, leading up to Monday night’s 94-89 loss to the Mavericks.

“You’d get to see these guys for two years and they’d become the focal point and you’d see how they develop.”

Sullinger’s thinking is in line with that of new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has said it’s his desire to raise the league’s age limit to 20 to keep prospective NBA players in college one year longer.

Silver believes that raising the minimum age would lead to a better NBA, because teams would have more developed players.

“You don’t want to waste a pick on somebody who has to develop,” Sullinger added.

But Sullinger also sees the downside. “It can hinder somebody, the guy that clearly is the best, and then a major injury happens,” he said. “You never want that to happen, but that hurts the most.”

Sullinger is speaking from experience.

“A prime example is my situation where I stayed another year [after his freshman season] and I got hurt that year,” he said. “That is kind of scary, because if you look at it from my perspective, I didn’t know where I was going to go [in the NBA draft]. Before, I was top-5, hands down. I knew where I was going.”

After a stellar freshman season in which he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds, Sullinger was indeed tabbed as a likely NBA lottery pick.

“Then when I got hurt, all these questions came about, it kind of messes with your head,” he said. “I was 20. That really messed with my mind and I was really scared, because I didn’t know if I had a future. I didn’t know where I was going to be at. Normally when you’re in college, you know, ‘Next year, I’m coming back to the same team,’ and that was the scary part about it.”

Sullinger was flagged by NBA doctors who raised concerns about his back issues, which ultimately caused him to fall to the 21st pick in the first round of the 2012 draft, where the Celtics selected him.

Sure enough, Sullinger missed half his rookie NBA campaign after having season-ending back surgery.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens spent 13 years at Butler University, the last six as a head coach before he was hired by the Celtics last summer.

“My opinion has always been, either come right out of high school if you think you’re ready – and very, very, very few guys are ready,” Stevens said. “And then if not, maybe a two-year [stint].

“When I was on the other side of the fence in the NCAA, you always wanted to get everybody in a room to discuss it and it sounds like there’s a lot of push towards that right now, which is a really good thing.”

Carlisle weighs in

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was drafted by the Celtics and won a championship with them in 1986. He also believes his former team, currently in rebuilding mode, will turn things around – fast.

“They have a plan they’re executing,” Carlisle said. “They have a vision of what they want to do. They’ve got a great young coach who’s going to be there a long time. Danny [Ainge] has turned that team over once already into a championship team and did it in very short order. They went from being a deep lottery team to winning the title the next year. They’ll get it turned around quickly.

“This year, they’ve got some young guys that I think are long-term core pieces that are getting experience. And then [Rajon] Rondo is still one of the great point guards in the league. He’s a guy you can definitely build around. I don’t know that they need empathy or sympathy. I respect the fact that they made hard decisions. It’s difficult that they have to let guys go that are all-time great players, guys like [Paul] Pierce and [Kevin] Garnett. But they’re on a different path and they’ll certainly get there.”

Rondo struggling

Rondo has struggled to find his touch around the rim since returning to action in January.

In his last seven games entering Monday, he was 21 for 56 (37.5 percent) on shots in the paint, 1 for 9 on shots that were between 5-9 feet from the rim. And in the 25 games he had played this season, Rondo was shooting 54 for 139 (38.8 percent) from the paint.

“As of late, my floaters aren’t there and my touch around the rim isn’t there,” Rondo said Sunday after a 3-for-14 shooting night in a 121-120 overtime loss to the Pelicans.

“But I’ll keep shooting them. I think they’re high percentage shots for me. I’ll continue to be aggressive.”

Celtics assistant Ron Adams, who has worked with Rondo on his shot, recently suggested that Rondo is missing shots around the rim because his knee isn’t fully healthy yet, thus his burst toward the basket isn’t quite there yet.

“I don’t try to make excuses,” Rondo said Friday when asked about Adams’s point. “I wasn’t always explosive. I still had a lot of trick shots around the rim. Just my touch, I’ve just got to continue to work on my touch and my timing.”

Friendship on hold

Sullinger and Chris Johnson have been friends dating to their days in Ohio, but they’ll put their friendship on hold Thursday when their schools meet in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Sullinger’s Ohio State Buckeyes (25-9) will face Johnson’s Dayton Flyers (23-10) in Buffalo . . . Monday was Ainge’s 55th birthday.

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com.
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