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.

C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

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C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

WALTHAM -- The national anthem protests by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have had an undeniable ripple effect on professional sports teams across the country. And that includes the Boston Celtics.
 
“We as an organization know what’s going on,” said Marcus Smart. “We read and see and hear about it every day. It’s a sensitive subject for everybody.”
 
While it’s unlikely that Celtics players will do something similar to Kaepernick taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, there’s no question some are figuring out the best way to utilize their platform as athletes to express their views on current social issues.
 
“Us athletes have to take advantage of the stage we’re on,” said Jae Crowder. “Try to make a positive out it. You can’t fix negative problems with negative energy. I don’t want to do anything negative; I want to do something positive, shed light on the situation.”
 
Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and a number of professional athletes have tried to have more attention paid to recent killings of African-Americans by police officers where, based on the video footage, it appears excessive or unnecessary force was used.
 
It is a topic that has brought a wide range of responses from many in the sports world, including the dean of NBA coaches, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
 
During the Spurs’ media day this week, he was asked about the Kaepernick’s protests.
 
“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done,” Popovich told reporters. “The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it.”
 
As examples of the political pressure he was referring to, Popovich mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to galvanize group, as well as the NBA and other organizations pulling their events out of the state of North Carolina because of its legislation as it relates to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
 
“The important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is keep it in the conversation,” Popovich said.
 
And while there may be differing opinions as to whether Kaepernick or any other athlete should be protesting, the one common thread that seems to bind the Celtics players and the front office is them having the right to speak out not only as professional athletes, but Americans.
 
“The biggest thing is we all really value the freedoms that we have and that we’ve been allotted,” said coach Brad Stevens, who added that he has had individual discussions with players on this subject. “We certainly support an individual’s freedoms. It’s been great to engage in those discussions. It’s been really fun for me how excited our guys are about using their platform.”
 
And that more than anything else is why Crowder feels the Celtics have to have a united front as far as the message they present to the masses.
 
“If we want change we have to do it together,” Crowder said. “I feel like those guys (other athletes) used their platforms well. I think more athletes should do the same. You can’t do it with any hatred; you can’t do it with any negative. You have to do it with positive energy.”