LAS VEGAS — There are two things Fab Melo can do: block shots and take charges. The shot-blocking comes naturally to the 7-footer from Syracuse by way of Brazil, but the charges? He learned how to do that while on a summer tour of China with his Brazilian team.
“I love it,” he said. “Just to get a stop. It’s our ball and they get a foul.”
Little by little, we are finding out more about the 22-year-old. He only began playing serious basketball about six years ago when he came to the United States. As a freshman at Syracuse he barely saw the court. As a sophomore he was Big East Defensive Player of the Year. While his game is undeniably raw, his potential is such that if he had returned to school he would have likely become a lottery pick.
In the first half of the Celtics ‘ 87-69 win over the Hawks, Melo was one of the best players on the court with seven points and four rebounds in just nine minutes. In the second half, he added just a single rebound in nine more minutes. This was progress.
“Fab was great in the first half,” said C’s summer league coach Ty Lue. “Defensively being in the right spot. After timeouts he was attentive. He ran out stuff right. He was great, Fab was great in the first half. Awesome.”
Melo said the game slowed down for him in the first half. At the moment things are moving too fast for him on the court and in truth, the free-flowing summer league game may not be the best environment for him. Get him on the court in a structured system with players like Kevin Garnett  and Rajon Rondo  around him and then we’ll be able to see how much he can contribute to the real Celtics this season.
“He’s struggling with our calls in coverages ‘ call and show, call and weak, ice ‘ he’s having problems with that, but his effort the last few games has been there,” Lue said. “As long as he’s playing with the effort, he’ll pick that up. A lot of it has to do with fatigue. In college he stayed in the zone, just standing in the middle. Now he’s got to get out and show and recover, you got to rotate, you got to close out. It’s a lot more work for him, but he’s getting better and better.”
Melo may be raw, but he already understands why he’s on the court and what will get him time this winter. He’s not out there for his offense, but he knows that. “That’s the thing I do,” he said. “I block shots and I take charges.”
Learning the intricacies of NBA defense will take some time, but he seems to understand that, even if he doesn’t quite understand what to do yet.
“Just need to be more comfortable on the court,” he said. “The game is still a little fast for me. I need to slow down and be patient with stuff. I think it’s going to be a slow process, but I will be ready. I have quick feet. I can defend screens. I’m good on helping weak side. I just need to get a little coaching and when I do that I will be able to adjust my game.”