Fab Melo is a hard guy to put a finger on. For every positive, there's a negative spin you could put on it.
He's a talented defensive player (as Ainge points out, he blocks shots and takes charges, a rare combination) but he's a bad rebounder and non-existent offensive player.
He improved greatly between his freshman and sophomore seasons but part of the reason for that was his disappointing freshman year.
He just started learning the game (and English) a few years ago. That's either reason to believe he'll get better or a crutch used to explain why he isn't as good as he could be now.
So it does help to go back and learn a little more about the kid before jumping to too many conclusions. I thought this was a good read from the AP (see link for the whole thing).
''He's proud of where he's at today,'' said Adam Ross, Melo's former coach at The Sagemont School, a small private institution in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ''It hasn't been a smooth ride - he's had some bumps in the road - but he's managed to fight his way through all that stuff. He's done well for himself.''
''Imagine as a 17-year-old you packed your bags and flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to pursue your lifelong dream not knowing any Portuguese, not knowing what school or life in Brazil was like, and you did it without your parents or any kind of adult supervision,'' Ross said. ''How do you think you would have done? Personally, I would have folded.
''It's just too much.''
Yes, it is a lot. With that said, every player in the NBA has overcome their own personal struggles to get where they are today. For a little more insight, here's a blurb from SB Nation with the help of the folks at our Syracuse blog (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician) who covered Fab for 2 years.
For Melo, his best quality is his tenacious defensive ability. He's not afraid to get in someone's face and go for the block, almost to a fault. He was good for a goaltend every game but he also blocked 4-5 shots, so, trade-off. His worst quality is his perceived laziness. Fab is telling people that his suspensions came from poor English and academic issues, which is true, but he's leaving out that he was sighted at the campus bar during the week so often that it become commonplace. He also seems to be a little bit of a space cadet off the court. He's going to need someone to whip him into mental shape as well as physical shape.
So there's obviously a knucklehead potential there. (Update: Forgot to mention that he's got a pretty alarming police report as well) Thankfully, the Celtics might be the place where he could get straightened out in short order. One big reason is Kevin Garnett's return.
If anyone can whip Fab into shape and set him on a path for a successful career, it is Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers. In other towns with lesser leadership, we might have seen Fab spending seven nights a week at the dive bar of his choice, but I believe that Garnett, Pierce, Rivers, and the rest of the team will make sure he stays on the straight and narrow and focuses on becoming a great player. Fab doesn't have to worry about academics anymore, so basketball should really be ahead of everything else for him now.
One thing that stuck out to me while reading Melo's bio was his love for the game of soccer. Kevin Garnett is a big soccer fan, so they might be able to bond on that subject.
Someone better pull Melo aside and explain Kevin Garnett's rules before he hits training camp. KG will give a young big man one shot and one shot only. If the kid listens to The Kid and follows through with his instructions, he's in and he's family. If not, if there's any hint that the youngster is taking things less seriously than he should, if there's a hint of not being with the program ...that's it. He's done. He's out. And that's usually the last we hear about him before he leaves town unceremoniously.
Melo is a first rounder, so the hope here is that the team will do everything they can to help him succeed. He'll have no more excuses. No one to blame if things don't turn out right. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for him. It is an opportunity for the Celtics as well. Here's hoping that it all works out.