July 10, 2013

Still Fab, not yet fabulous

Fab Melo is improving but faces competition to stick with the Celtics, and may spend a second season in Maine.

Mark Murphy/Boston Herald

Fab Melo’s life is going to continue along a sweet and sour path. The 7-foot Brazilian is going to match the moments of progress with a step back, a dunk with a miss.

click image to enlarge

Fab Melo of the Red Claws put the exclamation point on Maine's 102-96 victory over Springfield Monday, January 21, 2013, with this slam dunk.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

But Melo also brought his teammates on the bench to their feet when he rocked the backboard with a late dunk.

“Fab is really liked by his teammates and he’s a guy they really want to see succeed,” said Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations and perhaps Melo’s biggest supporter. “They see how hard he’s working every day.”

Melo’s biggest critic is gone. Former coach Doc Rivers eventually didn’t want to hear any question about Melo’s ability to actually contribute to the major league roster last season.

And Ainge isn’t making any promises now. Rookie first-round pick Kelly Olynyk is far more polished offensively. Even second-round selection Colton Iverson has a more active, hard-edged presence on the glass.

“There’s tough competition,” Ainge said. “Every year there’s 60 new guys who come in looking for jobs from the draft, overseas, everything. It’s tough. It’s early.”

Melo, who appears to be following the standard route for a 7-footer drafted outside the lottery, has plenty of time, even if that means spending another season in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws.

He’s encouraged. The sweet part Monday was his three charges. His new coach, Brad Stevens, noted each one from his baseline seat.

“I thought he played more physical today and was really engaged,” Stevens said. “I thought he had a few shots at the rim he would probably like to have back, and a couple of good finishes. He’s probably picked up the defensive stuff in the past year pretty well. He’s communicating, he’s trying to do the right thing. I spent some time at shootaround today talking with him about little things. He’s really engaged and he wants to be a good player.”

He wants that moment to arrive soon. Instead there’s more sweet and sour in his future.

“I want everything fast but I have good coaches with me,” Melo said. “They tell me how good I can be and how good I have to work.”

And slowly, ever so slowly, he senses the progress.


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