LAS VEGAS – It has already been a difficult transition, before summer league is half over, before training camp with the real Celtics, and definitely before the regular season alongside a certain demanding power forward as opponents force Fab Melo to step outside the lane for a change.
“That guy’s feet hardly ever left the paint,” one general manager said of Melo’s two seasons with the Syracuse zone.
It took all the way until Monday, Boston’s first game here after five in Orlando, for Tyronn Lue, the assistant coach running the bench in summer league, to note that Melo’s coverages have been off, at least partly because of the extra work involved now that the No. 22 pick in the June 28 draft can’t hang back under the basket in the zone all the time. So it was that Melo had four fouls in just 18 minutes of the 87-69 win over the Hawks at Cox Pavilion.
“He was just in the middle, standing,” Lue said. “Now, you’ve got to go out and show, you’ve got to get back, you’ve got to rotate, you’ve got to close out. It’s a lot more work for him, but he’s getting better and better.
“Especially with the five men in this league being able to shoot the ball, he’s going to have to come out a little bit. It’s going to be hard for him at first, but I think he’ll figure it out. He has good feet. So just learning the coverage and learning our system, he’ll do a lot better.”
Melo’s work on defense as a 7-foot, 255-pounder means everything because that projects as his only area of impact. There will be little scoring, although the Celtics are hoping for production on the boards as a meaningful contribution on that end.