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Celtics brass likes their rookies

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) July 20, 2012 Draft, Summer League 10 Comments

We all get a little bit of the Summer Fever around this time of year.  We fall in love with players who never make it.  We fantasize about genius GM’s finding no-name diamonds in the rough that will make an impact for a winning team.  Hell, I did three separate pieces on Dionte Christmas in the span of 12 hours, and there’s no guarantee he’ll even be playing in this country in a few months.

That’s just how it goes.  But some guys here in the Summer League do deserve some reasonable optimism.  And the Celtics are expressing plenty of it when it comes to their 2012 draft class.  All three draftees have shown varying degrees of NBA-readiness.  Jared Sullinger is showing the Celtics he’s got a few tools that could help him compete for playing time during the regular season.

“Jared is what we thought he was,” said Doc Rivers.  “He’s a terrific rebounder and great passer, and he can shoot the ball better than I think people knew.  So he’s been great”

Sullinger is learning NBA lessons right now.  He’s seen a player he bonded with, JaJuan Johnson, traded within a couple of weeks of their budding friendship.  And his production has dropped off, leading to some visible frustrations on the court.

Ty Lue, Celtics assistant coach and head coach for the Summer Leagues, says he told Sullinger “you can’t get frustrated, you can’t drop your head and pout when things aren’t going your way”  He added  “I told guys we wanted to get it to him in the post, but if they don’t, you can’t pout, you can’t drop your head and mope around.  You might not post at all with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rondo in the game… you might get one post up.  Just continue to do what you do, rebound the ball, and be in the right position to take your shots.”

Frustrations aside, the Celtics coaching staff is pleased with what he’s done, and they feel good about where he is.  But Doc isn’t ready to make any solid commitments to his playing time.

“It’s early. I’ll wait until camp.  We’ll just wait and see.  I want to let everyone get in camp and then we decide.  There’s an open position.”

One way to help earn some playing time in that open position, learn from veterans once training camp opens.

“I think Fab will appreciate having Kevin [Garnett] on his team.  And so will Jared,” Doc said.  “I think he has a lot to teach them.  If they’re open to learning, they have a chance to be great.  If they’re not open to learning, they won’t have a chance to be great.”

The Celtics know Fab Melo is a project.  But they also note that while it might take some time, he does have NBA-ready skills.

“Fab… you can see why he has a chance to be a good player,” said Doc.  “He’s a force, he can block shots.  I just like what he does for us.  I think he can be a good player in this league at some point.  I don’t know if it will be next year, but maybe.”

“He does have an upside for sure,” added Danny Ainge.  “What I like about Fab is he blocks shots and takes charges.  Very few people do that and he does that already.  He just has to learn our pick and roll coverages and he’ll be a terrific defender.”

The glaring thing about those quotes is that Doc and Danny are mostly talking about the future, rather than the now, with Melo.  And Ainge says flat-out, Melo’s got a lot of work to do.

“The next few months are going to be really big for him and his development.  He’s got to put in a lot of time in the weight room and just learn the system.”

The most glowing praise, though, was saved for Kris Joseph.  That’s probably because Sullinger’s expectations are high, and even though he’s meeting high expectations at the moment, he’s doing the expected in the eyes of the Celtics.  Joseph, though, is exceeding expectations.

“He’s been very good,” said Doc.  “Kris Joseph is better than advertised.”

Ty Lue added “he’s been very good.  He can rebound the ball, he’s got a quick second jump, he’s athletic, he can defend, he can attack the basket.  I mean, I’m just surprised he went in the second round.  I think he’s a first round player.”

Of course, the one caveat that we try to beat into everyone’s head right about now is that this is summer league, and success here rarely guarantees regular season results.  But Joseph’s skills are clear.  You can see the ability to perform fundamental basketball tasks, and turn those solid fundamentals into some nice plays.  There is an opportunity for Joseph to earn a spot in Boston, rather than being shipped to Maine, and provide depth at the wing.  With an aging Paul Pierce and a “who-knows-what-to-expect” Jeff Green, depth at the wing is important for these Celtics.

Summer League is almost over.  Our first chance to evaluate the Celtics rookies passes this weekend.  And while we shouldn’t make any final judgments on these guys, it’s clear the Celtics truly like their potential.  In a critical summer where the Celtics are trying to bridge the gap between the Big 3 era and the future of the Celtics, it’s nice to at least have some legitimate optimism regarding your draft class.

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  • Lee in Oregon

    Sullinger can play, alot of teams will regret passing up on him. I could see him getting some minutes and contributing like Leon Powe afew years ago.

    I was a bit worried when Ray left, but DA is having a great summer.

  • Jester00

    Lee you are so money and I loved your fan friday write up by the way. Sully can and will do a lot this year Reds, BigM you might want to think about a second class of Reds Army HOF’s Lee should be a shoe in. Can’t wait for this season. Go Celtics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • hebertofnh

    I always love to listen when Doc speaks glowingly about guys like Sully and K.Joseph. You can tell how much Doc is excited by their potential and skillsets respectively. Honestly, I can’t remember Doc speaking so highly of a player like he has Jared. Obviously, his M.O. is to not guarantee rotation minutes, as was established in his quote about the Wizard’s organization in May, but you get the sense that Doc is thinking about how well Sully’s passing and rebounding can make life easier for the Big 3.

  • I bleed green in L.A.

    Not to hijack a post, but can we discuss the topic of advertising on NBA jerseys? I am against it, no other American sports league (maybe soccer but who cares) allow this and it just feels cheap to me.

    I hope the Celtics are one of the last teams to allow this (if ever). The Celtics are about tradition, and Red would never have gone for this. It’s about the banners, plain and simple.

    • Dana

      Am Celtic fan since sixties, end of Russell and Jones boys era, now living in Melbourne Australia. Very happy and excited about this coming year – great draft and xmas may come early too! Really miss Celtic games at garden. They have advertising on jersey down here and it Really does look cheap. Don’t damage that Celtic brand! We want Miami and the world to know that the Celtics are number one!

  • RedsLoveChild

    Sully will be playing major minutes throughout the entire season. That`s a given!

    By March, Melo wlll be starting at center. KG goes back to PF.

    • http://twitter Wayno

      You guys are nuts. It’s just summer league. They traded their best summer league player (Moore). Doesn’t mean much.Sully needs to lose at least 20lbs and try to increase speed and elevation a bit. We’ll see come October-November.

  • D Wade

    These 3 looks like the 3 stooges Moe, Curly and Larry. Fab looks so dumb

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  • Frank A

    Sully has great foot work. That’s the most important thing. Dwade, you don’t understand the game. You couldn’t tell the difference between a first round pick and 6th grader. Mark my words when Miami no longer has a big three and are rebuilding one day, you won’t be a Heat fan anymore. You weren’t a heat fan 3 years ago.