Celtics suspend Jared Sullinger for season opener after dismissal of domestic violence charges

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The Boston Celtics announced Tuesday that they have suspended Jared Sullinger for one game "for his role in an incident that occurred on August 31, 2013." The second-year forward will serve his suspension during the team's 2013-14 regular-season opener against the Toronto Raptors in Canada on Wednesday night.

The "incident" was Sullinger's arrest on charges of assault and battery, malicious destruction of property and witness intimidation stemming from a "domestic situation" with his girlfriend. Sullinger pleaded not guilty to the charges on Sept. 3 and was released on $5,000 bond. The charges were dismissed in Waltham District Court on Monday after Deann Smith said she wouldn't testify against Sullinger, according to David Abel and John R. Ellement of the Boston Globe:

Deann Smith, the woman whose accusations led to Sullinger’s arrest by Waltham police in August, had repeatedly asked for the criminal charges to be dismissed since the Aug. 31 incident between the couple in the home they then shared in Waltham. [...] After the ruling, Sullinger declined to discuss the case. Asked how he was doing, Sullinger said, “Ready to play.”

In paperwork filed by Sullinger’s attorney, Charles Rankin, the defense asked for the charges to be dropped, contending that there was no evidence to support the charges.

Rankin wrote that Smith, through her own attorney, has notified Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called as a prosecution witness.

Smith “will not appear and ... if she were forced to appear, she would invoke her 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” Rankin wrote. “Moreover, discovery in the case has revealed there are not excited utterances nor any other admissible evidence to support the charges." [...]

“Where the victim is a necessary witness to the case, without her testimony, we cannot sustain our burden of proof," [Middlesex D.A. spokesperson] MaryBeth Long said. “So the judge dismissed the case. We were not in a position to go forward."

Smith has since moved back to Ohio, according to her attorney, who said Smith and Sullinger "definitely speak, and they’re on good terms."

Despite the dismissal, the Celtics chose to issue a one-game suspension "because he failed to meet the high expectations we have for all Celtics employees," team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement. The Celtics also said they "will have no further comment on this matter."

CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely reports that the NBA will not levy additional punishment on Sullinger, electing instead to stand on the team's one-game suspension.

After the dismissal of the charges, Sullinger attended the team's Monday afternoon practice, and new Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he didn't notice a major change in the 21-year-old, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

“I think the whole process had obviously been tough for [Sullinger], but he didn’t seem any different necessarily today. I just think he continues to have to get better on the court while really becoming the best person that he can be, as well, and really prioritizing and learning from what he’s been through.”

The Celtics chose Sullinger with the 21st overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, the second of their two first-round selections. (They traded the other, Syracuse center Fab Melo, to the Memphis Grizzlies this summer; Memphis promptly waived him.) The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Sullinger showed flashes as a rookie, averaging six points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game in 45 appearances. The Ohio State product began the season coming off the bench behind Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass before earning a chance to start with his rebounding. That opportunity was short-lived, though, as a back injury that had raised red flags worsened the point that he needed season-ending surgery.

Sullinger spent the offseason rehabilitating that injury and performed well during the Celtics' preseason schedule, averaging 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds over 20.6 minutes in eight exhibition games. He'll be available for Boston's home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, Nov. 1.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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