NEW YORK — A day after Chris Wilcox was ruled out for at least three weeks with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, the Celtics signed former Miami Heat draft pick Jarvis Varnado from the NBA Development League to improve their frontcourt depth.
Varnado, 24, who played at Mississippi State, was averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.9 blocks for Sioux Falls.
Varnado, 6 feet 9 inches and 210 pounds, was the 41st pick in the 2010 draft but never played a game in Miami. He played in Italy and Israel the past two seasons before joining the NBADL.
The Celtics needed a big man because Wilcox is out and Darko Milicic left the team to tend to his ill mother in Serbia. Jason Collins is the lone true center currently on the roster.
Center Fab Melo remains with Maine of the NBADL and the Celtics do not want to hurt his development by promoting him too quickly. Coach Doc Rivers said Sunday that the organization didn’t consider calling up Melo, who had limited experience while he was at Syracuse.
Varnado gives the Celtics 12 healthy players for their four-game road trip that begins Tuesday against the Nets. Leandro Barbosa, who is away from the team because of personal reasons, is expected to rejoin the club Thursday in Los Angeles.
Situation most foul
Despite playing just 17.1 minutes per game, Jared Sullinger leads the Celtics in personal fouls with 74, and he understand that his rookie status isn’t helping his cause.
“It’s fouls,” he said. “I can’t go over to the ref and make him change the call. It goes in one ear and out the other.
“I probably do lead the league in [raising] my arms up after fouls. I’m a rookie. There’s no way I can handle a ref. They are not going to listen to me.
“So being a rookie, sometimes you always get the short end of the stick, but you’ve got to pay your dues around here in this league.”
The Celtics have been Christmas Day mainstays since bringing together the Big Three, and none of those appearances has been at home. The Celtics are playing in New York for the second consecutive year on the holiday, having faced the Knicks last season.
Being one of 10 teams chosen to play on Christmas is an honor not lost on the players.
“It’s going to be a little weird for the first time not being with my family,” Sullinger said. “But it’s an honor knowing I went to an organization where we’re able to play on Christmas. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to play on Christmas, but it’s a blessing.”
Paul Pierce has no issues playing on the holiday.
“To me, it’s been like that for the last four or five years,” he said. “You’d like to be with your families, but you know you’ve got work to do.
“I guess it’s great for the households who stay home on Christmas morning to get a chance to watch their favorite teams play. Hopefully you can entertain them and put on a good show.”Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.