|Paul Pierce schools Fab Melo ‘all day’ in 1-on-1 drill in the post||02.05.13 at 5:55 pm ET|
WALTHAM — If you needed any proof that Fab Melo still has a lot to learn (and prove) to make it in the NBA, and that D-League stats don’t carry over to the NBA, we submit for your review the following evidence.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce took the opportunity Tuesday before practice began to teach the rookie big man out of Syracuse a thing or two about playing on the low post.
With Jared Sullinger out with season-ending back surgery, Melo was called up from D-League and played just three minutes against the Magic with a steal on Friday but did not seen any action Sunday.
Tuesday we saw a small reason why. Pierce noticed Melo working by himself on low-post moves and came over to give him some real resistance.
Melo missed a shot, double-dribbled and then, while defending Pierce forced a fadeaway that was off-target. But Pierce objected, calling a foul. The next two drives to the basket were baby hooks that found the bottom of the basket. Pierce walked away triumphantly, shouting “all day” to Melo, Celtics coaches and anyone within earshot.
|Fab Melo and the debate over D-League dominance||12.27.12 at 2:59 pm ET|
Over his last two NBA Development League games, Fab Melo averaged 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.5 blocks. The Celtics rookie amassed 32 points, nine boards and nine rejections for the Red Claws on Wednesday, which, if nothing else, proved his 16 rebounds, 15 points and 14 blocks in Maine last week were no fluke.
After being selected No. 22 overall — one slot behind Jared Sullinger — in this past June’s NBA draft, Melo hasn’t seen action on the C’s, but has produced respectable numbers over 10 games for their D-League affiliate: 10.4 points (51.1 FG%, 66.7 FT%), 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in just 25.5 minutes a night. Of course, he’s playing against teams from South Dakota and Idaho, so those numbers should be taken with a heaping helping of salt.
Still, there’s always a spot on an NBA roster for bigs who defend the rim, especially on this Celtics team, which allows an atrocious 42.6 points in the paint per game and suffers worse when Kevin Garnett‘s not on the floor.
Exhibit A: Greg Stiemsma.
|Nothing can contain Fab Melo, not even a chair||08.23.12 at 4:26 pm ET|
For your viewing pleasure: Celtics first-round pick Fab Melo collapses into a folding chair at the NBA’s Rookie Training Program. Amazing bonus quote: “The chair was too weak, and an accident happened. I lost weight. I’m good now.” The season can’t get here soon enough. He’s at least going to be a Media Day sensation.
In related news, Melo was elected “the funniest” by his fellow rookies, receiving 22.9 percent of the vote in a survey conducted by NBA.com. Never fear: There’s some game to go along with that fun. His peers voted him the third-best defender among rookies (behind only top two 2012 NBA draft picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis), and Melo also received votes for the question: “Which rookie will have the best career?”
Same goes for fellow C’s rookie Jared Sullinger. He finished fourth in the voting for funniest and received votes in response to the survey question: “Which rookie is being the most overlooked.” Still, I’m setting the over-under on the number of times either rookie gets Kevin Garnett to laugh at 0.5.
|Unraveling the mystery of Fab Melo||07.16.12 at 7:57 pm ET|
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.”
|Chris Wilcox: ‘This is a blessing for me even to be here’||07.14.12 at 2:29 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Among teammates, coaches and even owner Stephen Pagliuca, Chris Wilcox is known to be a fun-loving man.
So, it was with great humor and appreciation that Pagliuca listened to Wilcox tell him recently that if only he had been able to play against Miami, things might have turned out differently for the Celtics.
“It’ll be even more special to have all these guys on board and we’ll win that seventh game against Miami this year,” Pagliuca said with a smile and chuckle. “Chris said he would’ve made the difference and I think he was right.”
It was no laughing matter in March when Wilcox became the second Celtics player in three months to undergo heart surgery after being diagnosed with a heart irregularity.
He was officially waived by the Celtics on March 23, but like with Jeff Green, who had heart valve surgery two months earlier, there was an unwritten agreement that the team would offer him a contract once he was medically cleared to resume basketball activity. Saturday was that time, as Wilcox, a much-needed veteran big man in the C’s front court, was formally re-introduced in a press conference at the team’s practice facility.
“I’m good. I’m back now. I’m full contact,” Wilcox said. “I can do everything, lifting weights, just to a minimum though, lifting weights. Everything else, I’m back and I’m ready.
“By training camp, I’ll definitely be full-go. I’ve been working hard all summer, trying to get back right, being prepared and it’s going along well.”
What’s been the biggest challenge of training since heart surgery?
“Cardio. Your cardio, your wind,” Wilcox said. “You have to re-train your whole body over again after surgery like that. So, I think the main thing for me is the my cardio so I’ve just been running, trying to get my wind up. That’s the main thing right now.
“This is a blessing,” Wilcox continued. “This is a blessing for me even to be here right now. So, I’m just going to take full advantage of all my situations and all the opportunities that have been coming my way. And it’s a blessing to come back to a team and be able to pick up where I left off. Read the rest of this entry »
|Summer league truths and questions||07.11.12 at 3:36 pm ET|
ORLANDO — The well-worn maxim of summer league play is this: It’s not possible to tell who can play for real in the NBA, but it is possible to tell who can’t. Through three games, there have been few surprise for the Celtics and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Jared Sullinger is a good basketball player, who will compensate for his lack of athleticism with smart play and strong skills. E’Twaun Moore is confidently taking the reins of the team. Fab Melo is active, but raw. Kris Joseph has good skills across the board. JaJuan Johnson has remained an enigma, but he started to hit his stride in the second half of their third game on Wednesday, an 85-77 win over the Pacers.
The good news thus far is that each of them has flashed an NBA skill, but obvious questions remain. Here’s a thumbnail look at each prospect:
The raw numbers are decent — 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11-for-12 from the free throw line — but what has really stood about Sullinger’s game is his feel for rebounding and his ability to pass out of double teams. While concerns about his less-than-ideal physique are legitimate, he’s been able to compensate with his skills, which are numerous.
“He’s a great passer, good rebounder, always in the right position as far as rebounding the ball,” C’s coach Ty Lue said. “He’s going to be good for us.”
Sullinger went 7-for-12 from the floor against the Pacers, operating mostly out of the low post where he is clearly comfortable. The Celtics have not had back-to-the-basket presence like Sullinger since the glory days of Leon Powe, but where Powe was intent on bulling his way to the basket, Sullinger has been able to read the play and make the appropriate pass.
“Getting double-teamed for the majority of your life, you’ve got to learn how to pass,” Sullinger said. “If you didn’t know how to pass, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
He has also shown a knack for getting to rebounds, something that is a major need for the Celtics. At the moment, he’s clearly the most NBA-ready of their roster players this summer.
The question: How much will his lack of athleticism hinder him against NBA competition?
Sullinger has proven he can play at a high level in high school, college and now here in summer league. The larger test awaits. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jared Sullinger takes over and other observations from first day of summer league||07.09.12 at 6:48 pm ET|
ORLANDO — Jared Sullinger has always been the focal point of the teams he’s played on, but this was his first taste of life in the NBA and he didn’t want to seem presumptuous.
“I didn’t want to come into the game thinking like, ‘It’s all about me, it’s all about me,’” he said. “Playing all my life, where everything goes through you, I didn’t want to be like that today because I got some teammates that can really play. So I was just trying to feel it out in the first half and the second half, we were falling behind, so I decided to step up and try to score the basketball.”
That’s exactly what he did as he scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half of the Celtics’ 73-65 win over Oklahoma City in their first summer league game. Sullinger worked down low and it’s clear that he’s comfortable on the block. He also stepped out and made a couple of mid-range jump shots. He even put the ball on the floor, spun into the lane and completed a three-point play.
“He’s just a gamer,” said C’s summer league coach, Ty Lue. “He knows how to play the game. Guys can be taller and more athletic, but he just knows how to play. He’s very skilled and he knows how to play the game. We wouldn’t have won the game without him today.”
Ever since the Celtics were able to select Sullinger in the first-round of the draft, his ability to play has been a constant theme. He’s not the most athletic player and there are obvious concerns about his back, but his basketball IQ is high and it’s evident watching him operate on the block that he has put in work over the years.
Summer league games are what they are. They can run anywhere from highly entertaining to long, drawn-out slogs and this game ranked more toward the latter end of the scale. Points were tough to come by, but the Thunder also had four first-round picks in their starting five, including center Cole Aldrich and Sullinger more than held his own.
This raises an interesting question as to whether the power forward can slide over and play some center minutes with the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge raised the possibility during the rookies’ introductory press conference and while it wouldn’t be wise to throw him out there against the likes of Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, Sullinger said he welcomes the phsyical pounding that comes from playing with the big guys underneath.
“That’s fun. That’s always fun,” he said. “Get to bang around in the post, back to the basket. You get to guard someone taller than you, it’s a challenge. It’s always fun doing that. At the same time, it’s always fun guarding quicker basketball players. It was fun today.”
Growing up in Ohio, he was tested early by his brothers Julian and J.J. who made sure their little brother learned how take punishment, and more importantly, how to overcome it and still play your game.
“When you go through the air on concrete and they throw you to the ground and you’ve got scrapes all over your arms, you learn to concentrate on making the shots, instead of just scraping your arm,” he said. “Every time I’d cry, they’d yell at me because I’m always worried about the scab or something, instead of worrying about making the shot. When you’ve got two brothers like that, it’s not choice but to make the shots.”
All in all, it was a positive first step in Sullinger’s transition to the NBA. Here are some other observations: Read the rest of this entry »