PORTLAND – While Boston played before a boisterous home crowd Wednesday night, two Celtics sweated through practice at an empty Portland Expo.
Boston sent 7-foot center Fab Melo and 6-7 small forward Kris Joseph to Portland to join the Maine Red Claws.
“They fit right in with the guys,” Coach Mike Taylor said. “I know it’s not easy for those guys (but) I think they look at this as a great opportunity to work on their game.”
Both Melo and Joseph expected the move.
“This move was really important for me,” Joseph said, “to get more reps and more game-time experience.
“I saw (the move to Portland) coming, just how the rotation was. As a small forward, being behind Paul (Pierce) and being behind Jeff (Green), it was tough getting reps, even in practice.”
Joseph played in one game for the Celtics, for three minutes.
Melo never dressed for a game; NBA teams can put only 13 of their 15 roster players in uniform each game. Melo and injured guard Avery Bradley were the ones to sit out.
“Of course I wanted to play but I understand the process,” Melo said. “I’m getting better every day. I’m working on my game. I have to be patient. My time will come.”
Both players were drafted out of Syracuse last year, Melo in the first round (22nd overall) and Joseph in the second (51st).
Melo, 22, is a 7-footer who didn’t begin playing basketball in his native Brazil until he was 16.
“Soccer didn’t work out for me,” Melo said. “I was tall so I started playing basketball.”
When Melo took a recruiting visit to Syracuse, he made an impression.
“I thought he was huge,” Joseph said. “We played a little pickup basketball and I could see the potential. He was raw, but he had the ability and the willingness to learn.
“When he came back as a freshman, I saw improvement, so I knew he had the work ethic to get better.”
Joseph, 24, grew up in Montreal, progressing from using “garbage cans for baskets in a schoolyard” to the Boys and Girls Club gym, then youth leagues.
Joseph came to the U.S. and played two years for Archbishop Carroll High in Washington D.C., before a four-year career at Syracuse (1,476 points/627 rebounds).
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was quoted on the team website, saying he considered keeping Joseph but there just wasn’t enough playing time. Rivers also said he has high hopes for Melo.
“I think (Melo) will be really good in the D-League because there’s not a lot of bigs,” Rivers said. “So I’m expecting him to almost be dominant.”
This is the Red Claws’ fourth season and their first as the sole affiliate of the Celtics.
In previous years, Maine received players from Boston, Charlotte and Philadelphia. Most of their stays were short (although Charlotte center Alexis Ajinca remained for more than two months).
Now that Boston is in charge of the Red Claws’ basketball operations, players in Portland will run the same systems Rivers uses with the Celtics. So not only will Melo and Joseph get playing time, they will continue to get experience in the Celtics’ way of doing things.
“Ultimately that’s what this league is for, to develop and go back to your respective teams and show what you’ve worked on,” Joseph said.
Joseph said the Celtics didn’t say how long he and Melo will be in Maine.
While here, both remain on the Celtics’ 15-man roster and receive their NBA salary.
And according to D-League rules, the NBA players don’t count as part of the league’s 10-man roster limit.
NOTES: The Red Claws don’t expect to make any roster moves until next week, but other teams are making cuts. The Iowa Energy already waived six players, including Ralph Mims, the former Brunswick High and Florida State standout.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: