- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers got word early this morning that rookie Jared Sullinger might need surgery on his bothersome back. By the time confirmation arrived before the team's morning shootaround, doctors were practically wheeling Sullinger in to go under the knife.
Sullinger underwent lumbar disc surgery Friday and will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season. He is expected to be back in time for the team's 2013-14 training camp later this year.
Coming on the heels of the Celtics' loss of point guard Rajon Rondo for the year with an ACL tear, Rivers said his team's goals remain unchanged at the moment.
"My emotions are to the team, I have to give them that," said Rivers. "I told them after shootaround ... our goals haven’t changed, nothing’s changed. We will have to play differently, again."
The Celtics will move forward Brandon Bass back into the starting lineup, but Rivers suggested the team will go small more often, leaning on the depth at shooting guard and utilizing Jeff Green more at the power forward spot.
"I think we’re still working on what we may have to do. But I think we definitely have to be a small-ball team," said Rivers. "We’ll start big, as usual with Brandon and Kevin [Garnett] -- I don’t know if that’s big, but that’s how we’ll start. After that we just have to put our five best players on the floor, so we’re going to have to be creative."
Rivers said he might even lean on rookie center Fab Melo, but said it would be small doses while they figure out where he's at with his development.
"I know how people here love the young guys -- love to see the young guys," quipped Rivers. "I’m sure at some point, Fab will find his way on the floor. ... Obviously, I think you try to give him as much as he can handle. You do try to put him in situations like when he’s on the floor, Kevin’s on the floor with him to help him."
Rivers stressed that the team knew the risk with Sullinger and expected surgery to occur at some point down the road. They were simply hoping his balky back might not require a fix until the offseason.
"We knew this could happen. We knew it a month before the draft that this could happen and at some point it probably would happen," said Rivers. "We were hoping it would be a summer thing, rather than the middle of the season, but it happened now. He was playing great and the good news is we know he can play. We know he’ll be a very good player and, in the long run, this will make him healthier."