Atlantic Notes: Sullinger, Early, Sixers

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Jared Sullinger has not met conditioning goals in an interview today on 98.5 FM The Sports Hub in Boston, as Brian Robb of transcribes (Twitter link). Sullinger suffered a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot on Sunday. Ainge said that he has addressed Sullinger’s conditioning issues “many, many times,” and was not impressed by the results this season. “All of our players have met conditioning, body fat, goals set by trainers, and Jared has not met them,” Ainge said. Sullinger told reporters Wednesday that he plans to use his rehab from a left foot fracture and the offseason to transform his body.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With only 26 games left, it’s getting late for Knicks rookie forward Cleanthony Early to prove his worth, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Early is one of four Knicks with a guaranteed deal for next season, but it doesn’t mean he definitely will return, especially if his salary helps facilitate a trade, Iannazzone noted. Early, the No. 34 pick, has struggled, and he missed six weeks after undergoing right knee surgery in November.
  • The Sixers saved a little less than $2MM when they claimed Thomas Robinson off waivers, as Kevin Pelton of writes in an Insider-only story. Robinson’s contract takes them over the NBA’s minimum team salary. Prior to the claim, they had been set to have to distribute any shortfall from that amount among their players, but the 76ers now pay only the balance of Robinson’s salary, Pelton notes.
  • Dumping productive players prior to the NBA trade deadline has become an increasingly popular tanking strategy, and is a problem that the league needs to address, Filip Bondy of The New York Daily News writes. Bondy notes that the deals the Knicks have made this season are a good example of the practice. “It’s been going on for a while, that particular instrument,” said Rod Thorn, NBA president of basketball operations. “More now, because we have so many teams under the cap. Five, six years ago, there were only a handful under the cap. Now half the teams or more are under the cap, and it puts them in position to gain an asset by taking a player that a team is trying to get rid of. There are more trading partners.”

Will Joseph contributed to this post.

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