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."

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury

Amir Johnson a game-time decision for Game 4 with shoulder injury


CLEVELAND – Brad Stevens won’t know until shortly before tip-off tonight if he will have to make another lineup change.
 
Amir Johnson, whose right shoulder was injured in the Celtics' 111-108 Game 3 win on Sunday, is questionable for tonight’s Game 4.
 
“It’s better for sure,” Johnson told CSN this morning. “Yesterday, it was hard to lift. Today, I can move it all around. In shoot-around, I’m going to get a couple shots, see how it feels and go from there.
 
He added, “it’s definitely going to be a game-time decision. I’m going to go and shoot around, just to get a feel. And then for the game-time, I’ll shoot around some more, see how it feels and take it from there.”
 
Healthy or not, Johnson being with the starting group is far from a given.
 
The 6-foot-9 veteran has consistently been the first starter subbed out and usually winds up playing the fewest minutes.
 
In Game 3, two of his backups – Kelly Olynyk (15 points) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) – shined brightly.
 
Here are some other highlights from the Celtics’ morning shoot-around.
 
THOMAS UPDATE: Isaiah Thomas met with a hip specialist on Monday, according to Stevens. “Still collecting information,” said Stevens, adding, “We’ll wait and see or we’ll discuss second, and third, and fourth, and fifth opinions.”

Thomas injured his right hip March 15 and later re-aggravated it in the first half of the Game 2 loss Friday. Less than 24 hours later, he was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.
 
He was replaced by Marcus Smart in the starting lineup and Smart responded with a career-high 27 points in Game 3, which included seven made 3’s which is a career-best mark as well.
 
BOUNCE-BACK CELTICS: The Celtics winning Game 3 sent shockwaves throughout the league, especially coming on the heels of a 44-point home court drubbing at the hands of the Cavs. “If you’re in sports long enough you’re going to have clunkers,” Stevens said. “You’re going to have games that don’t go your way. And our guys took seriously the idea of responding and just playing the next possession as well as they could.”
 
ROZIER HOMECOMING: The second-year guard grew up in nearby Youngstown, Ohio (75 miles southeast of Cleveland), so you can expect he’ll have a decent contingent of fans at tonight's game.
 
While he’s all-in for the Celtics, the same is not true of his friends and some family members.
 
“My family does a good job of staying on my side except for my one younger cousin,” Rozier said. “She loves LeBron.”