Celtics pleased with youthful size in first round

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Celtics pleased with youthful size in first round

BOSTON -- With only four players under contract for next season, the Boston Celtics needed front court depth and youth as they rebuilt their veteran roster. They got both in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft on Thursday night.

The Celtics selected forward Jared Sullinger (The Ohio State University) and center Fab Melo (Syracuse University) with the 21st and 22nd picks, respectively.

"We think we've developed a good culture here, said Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough. The Big Three have set the tone along with Rajon (Rondo) and we look for guys that can fit into that culture. We think this draft kind of fell perfectly almost for us because we got guys that we consider to be potential starters down the road at the power forward and the center position. By all accounts, they're good kids and hard workers."

Sullinger and Melo come from nearly opposite basketball backgrounds. Sullinger has been one of the top players in the country for years. Melo, on the other hand, grew up playing a completely different sport in Brazil and is fairly new to the game in comparison to others in his draft class.

"Jared's been one of the best players in his class his whole life, said McDonough. He was one of the top high school players in the country. He was one of the top freshman in the country last year at Ohio State. This year he put up stats that are almost identical to what he did last year and led his team to the Final Four. He's played against the biggest, longest, most athletic guys in AAU, in high school, in college, and had good success at all levels."

He added, "Jared is one of the better rebounders in the country. He has a great feel for where the ball's going to come off, he has terrific hands, his rebound rate per minute is very good. He's also able to step away from the basket and make shots. And that's an area that he's improved in rapidly I think over the past few years. He was a back-to-the-basket player in high school. He was always the biggest, strongest guy around and he's developed a pretty nice face-up game."

While Melo has not been involved in basketball as long as Sullinger, McDonough has noted quick improvement and willingness to learn.

Fab grew up as a soccer player in Brazil, he said. He's come into the game a little late. I thought he struggled some his freshman year at Syracuse and then I thought he improved rapidly this year. Their coaches gave him great reviews. The difference in their team when he was on and off the court was fairly significant. He's one of the few guys in the country who can block shots and take charges, so he's a defensive presence right now. We also think he's an over-the-top threat on lobs and he's able to step out and make 15-to-17-foot jumpers.

The Celtics explored moving up in the first round but were pleased with the talent available at their picks. With Sullinger and Melo on their draft boards, they are happy they didnt give up either selection.

Were excited, said McDonough. We had these two guys ranked as lottery talents. I think the beginning of the night, we all would have been very pleasantly surprised if you had told us they were going to be there at 21 and 22.

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
 
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
 
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced. 
 
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
 
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
 
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
 
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
 
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
 
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup