Melo still faces challenges on road to NBA

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Melo still faces challenges on road to NBA

BOSTON The Fab Melo era in Boston has begun.

Hold your applause, please.

The 7-foot rookie from Syracuse University made his NBA debut on Friday as the Boston Celtics had little trouble in defeating Orlando, 97-84.

He played the final 2:38 of the game, picking up his first career steal during that time.

Melo didn't exactly wow anyone with his first NBA action on Friday, but that's OK.

He's not expected to; not now at least.

Even with the Celtics' frontcourt depth taking another blow following Jared Sullinger (lumbar disc) having season-ending back surgery on Friday, that doesn't mean fans will start to see more Melo.

"People love the young guy; love to see the young guy," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said prior to Friday's game.

That is, until they see the young guy play and he makes young guy mistakes.

"You try to give him as much as he can handle," Rivers said of Melo. "And you do try to put him in situations on the floor with Kevin (Garnett) to help him."

One of the biggest challenges for Melo from the very beginning has been learning how to effectively play man-to-man defense as opposed to playing almost exclusively in a zone which has been a staple of the Syracuse University defense under Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.

"The (defensive) rotations; I didn't know how to defend screens, things like that; this just new for me," Melo said. "I learn this year. At Syracuse, I stay in the middle of the zone the whole time. It's a lot different from playing man-to-man."

Because Boston (23-23) is in a fight to just make the playoffs, it's unlikely that they will look to Melo much, if at all, in the next few games before they send him back to the Maine Red Claws, Boston's D-League affiliate.

"I don't see Fab getting a lot of opportunities right now," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "So we'll have to keep tabs on that because we want him to continue his development."

That's why the bulk of his pro career thus far has been spent with the Red Claws.

For the Red Claws, Melo has appeared in 19 games (17 starts) while averaging 11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 blocked shots per game.

Not surprisingly, Melo was happy to finally get on the floor in a real NBA game.

There was the usual nerves that most rookies feel in their first NBA action.

When you throw in the fact that Melo sat the first 45 minutes, it stands to reason that his performance would have left a lot to be desired.

But in grading his performance, it won't ever be about things such as points, but instead progress towards learning the NBA game to where someday he can be a guy Rivers calls on and feels confident that he can go in the game and get the job done.

"It's not a situation I want to come with Jared hurt," Melo said. "But I just have to take this opportunity.

Melo added, "I just want to go play and show some things I can do."

Brad Stevens podcast: 'Only goal around here is a championship'

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Brad Stevens podcast: 'Only goal around here is a championship'

Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine talk with Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens at Celtics Media Day about raised expectations for the upcoming season, how Al Horford will fit, can Isaiah Thomas build off an All-Star season, and how high are his goals. 

Plus, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss whether or not some critiscism could come Stevens' way if the Celtics doesn't perform well in the playoffs.

MORE PODCAST Isaiah Thomas: ‘Just getting to the playoffs in Boston isn’t good enough’

SUBSCRIBE Audioboom | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher

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.”