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The Fab Melo challenge facing the Celtics

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) July 8, 2013 Fab Melo, Summer League 23 Comments

ainge and meloThe Celtics face a bit of a challenge with Fab Melo this season.

The second year center is still not ready to be a contributor at the NBA level.  His movements on the floor were often slow yesterday, especially laterally.  He had trouble catching the ball.  And while it wasn’t all bad for Melo yesterday, it wasn’t great, either.

So it would seem that another trip to Maine might be in Melo’s future.  They call it the developmental league for a reason, and Fab needs time to develop.

But there’s a problem with that course of action.  When asked what he saw his role would be this year, he gave a telling answer.

“Being part of the team.  I just want to be part of the team.”

The follow-up question was “did it feel like you weren’t part of the team last year?”

“No, it didn’t.”

So this is the Celtics’ problem:

How do the Celtics balance the need for Melo to get the repetitions he needs to learn the game of basketball without sapping him mentally, and undoing whatever it is he’s learning in Portland?

At halftime, right when Danny Ainge was giving Melo this little pep talk I photographed, I was talking to a few people about him when one made the comment that Fab’s basically a 13 year-old in NBA years.  It seems like a knock on him, but it’s actually more of an explanation of why Melo struggles.

He started playing competitive basketball in 9th grade. He then went to Syracuse, a program that didn’t do him any favors for his future when it stuck him in the middle of a zone defense.  The Celtics now have on their hands a guy who only about a year ago really started to learn what he’s supposed to do on a pick-and-roll, which is only a staple of every NBA offense.

So when he’s out on the floor, he’s thinking.  A lot.  And when a player’s brain is occupied with wondering where to be and when, it takes a little bit longer to put a player where he needs to be.  Instead of the brain instinctively hitting the “hedge hard” button, and then after an appropriate amount of time the “now recover” sequence, he’s thinking “ok, now is where I have to hedge… here I go… look at me hedging… good job Fab.  OH SHIT, I HAVE TO RECOVER!”  Now add a layer of “what am I doing here” and the Celtics run the risk of their construction project falling behind schedule.

Luckily for Melo, this season might provide him with fresh start with a fresh coaching staff and an opportunity to get more time with the big club in Boston.  Despite plenty to be negative about in his first chance to see Melo as a Celtic, Brad Stevens focused on the positive.

“I’m not able to compare last year or even two weeks ago to what he’s doing today but I thought the things that impressed me about him today was the way he tried to communicate defensively.  I thought he was very active I thought he was very engaged.  Obviously, he made a couple of big jump hooks right  in front of us with a soft touch.  He’s a guy with size that can play in the paint… and defensively it looks like he’s got a decent feel with what’s going on.”

I thought fab did a lot of positive things,” added Celtics assistant and Summer League head coach Jay Larranaga.  ”He gives us an inside presence.  He had a nice couple of jump hooks, rebounded, had a nice blocked shot.  He’s, like all of us, a work in progress, but I thought he made some really good steps.”

It’s those flashes of promise that make you see why the Celtics are willing to be patient with him.  When he just reacts on the floor, he can do things like reach back and block Victor Oladipo on what seemed to be an easy lay up.  When he actually did catch the ball, he showed that he does, indeed, have a soft touch around the rim.

But right now, the Celtics need to approach Melo with the gentle touch of an archaeologist on a dig.  They are finding the pieces of an NBA game buried somewhere in that body of his.  Now they need to take the time and find the right way to pull all those fragile pieces together, and create something impressive.

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  • chuckmckenney

    Cut him and sign Steimsma.

    • EricKrasnauskas

      Yeah, I miss that kid. About Melo, I dunno, it seems like if he can’t get it together by now or at least show real improvement then it’s probably time for him to go.

      • eddysamson

        I disagree, I think theres absolutely no rush for him and that he should get 1 more year. A year from now compare him to Olynyk, Iverson, and Shav (if he’s still around) and if hes not measuring up, THEN we can get rid of him.

      • Raoul

        We’re not a franchise that needs to spend time turning an athlete into a basketball player. We’ve taken on project like Davis and Perkins, both of which came with fundamentals already instilled.

    • zippittyay

      I was rooting for them to pick either Miles Plumlee or PJ3 last year…

    • zippittyay

      I used to see Tyson Chandler in there somewhere, but it’s getting harder to see it nowadays.

      • Raoul

        Chandler over Stiemsma and Melo for sure, regardless of his struggles.

        • zippittyay

          I meant Melo used to remind me of Tyson Chandler…..

          • Raoul

            Ah agreed and understood

    • tvor03

      Is the Steamer available again?

      • Don Juan

        Yes, Minnesota cut him after nobody wanted to offer anything for him via trade.

        • veggiguy

          He should have put in the time in the weight room. He can really block shots but too easily pushed out of rebounding position. It is amazing these guys can make so much money but aren’t willing to do the work.

    • Don Juan

      As much as I dislike Fab Melo, I feel like he still has some potential. Fab is still learning and has room for improvement. Steamer (who I like far more than Fab) has already reached his full potential and sucks.

  • James D ♣

    It’s not like it’s last year… dude can get 20mpg and it wont make a damn bit of difference to our season, we’re going nowhere. Trial by fire, let him learn the hard way, give him backup mins for the C’s, Maine have had him long enough.

  • Raoul

    Dump Melo. Keep Olynyk, Iverson, and Randolph. It’s quite an easy decision. I don’t know why Ainge struggles with trading bench players, but easily pulls the trigger on stars. That’s not a knock on Ainge as him pulling the trigger has come with positive results, so I’d like the same genius decisions come with the bench…. like Dump Melo. Put him in a package with others… teams are intrigued by him still.

    • Raoul

      Melo is simply not a basketball player. It’s just the truth. He’s just a big guy. He will never be a star. His comprehension isn’t there and I’ll attribute that to 1. Low basketball IQ and 2. Language barrier.

      It’s not rocket science. It’s like when people look at Dwight’s size and wish he moved and shot more like Aldridge. It’s simply something he is incapable of becoming good at.

      • zippittyay

        I agree. I believe all we have is an uncoordinated and unmotivated Dwight Howard.

        • eddysamson

          I wouldn’t say unmotivated.

  • RedsLoveChild

    Fab Melo has a promising hoop career waiting for him….in Europe

    • Raoul

      HA

  • veggiguy

    Verajao for Humphries if Cavs sign Bynum. Cavs get an expiring contract and the Celtics get a hustle player who would set an excellent example on how to play hard. If he stays healthy the C’s can make a good run into the playoffs and the players have the winning experience to push them more next year.
    With Rondo, Sullinger, Green, Bradley, and Olynik, there is too much talent to get a high draft pick and no reason to tank their opportunity.

  • veggiguy

    He is drawing charges. That is smart basketball. A dumb player would just try for the block and draw the foul.

  • CoachAJ

    Fab Melo is only costing the franchise 1.3, 1.3, 2.2 on Team Option, 3.2 on Qualifying Offer. Being patient is the key. Of course dude will never be a franchise player, but for the next 4 years we got a steal of a project. Not everyone on the roster needs to be starter quality especially if they aren’t being paid starter money. He is getting paid developmental money and it grows to cheap back up money. We should keep him the length of his contract. He has no where reached his ceiling.