NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Fab Melo #51 of the Syracuse Orange blocks a shot by Josh Huestis #24 of the Stanford Cardinal at the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Not only has it been awhile since the Celtics fielded a summer league team, but even when they did, it rarely featured a squad with so many players that could make the team. After watching five games in five days, I've really fallen in love with these guys. Like Jay King's bromance with Kris Joseph over at Celtics Town, I'm definitely in man crush territory. If you didn't get a chance to see these guys in Orlando, try to catch some of the games next week in Vegas. They seem insignificant, but as soon as you see that familiar green and white and Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge watching from the sidelines, you'll get your basketball jones back and wish it was fall ball. I'm not saying this team could beat the original Dream Team, but they could hang with this year's Team USA. Yeah, Kobe. I said it. Bring it.
Today's game was a little ragged. You can blame the 10 am start or the fact that it's the fifth game in so many days, but both teams looked gassed. They settled for a lot of jump shots that clanged off the front of the rim. Lots of lazy defense, lots of dunks. The Celtics won in a blow out 94-73, outscoring the Magic at the line 19-8. With Jared Sullinger sitting this one out (scheduled rest), Boston didn't have as much of an inside presence and ramped up the speed of the game. Kris Joseph and JaJuan Johnson combined for 3-12 shooting and were pretty much non-factors. Up twenty in the third quarter, Tyronne Lue rested his starters and gave an extended look to the bench. The team travels to Sin City and are back on the floor Monday against the Hawks.
Mr. Consistency E`Twaun Moore was just that. He played poised, confident, and contained with a ho-hum 18 points. He's the broken record that you don't mind hearing. I'm wondering how much weight E`Twaun has put on in the last couple of months. It looks like he's definitely bulked up and that's helped him a lot. Last season, he primarily was a spot up shooter playing opposite Rajon Rondo but with the added muscle, he seems more confident backing defenders down and protecting the ball. As rumors swirl around a potential Dwight Howard deal to Houston, Danny's pursuit of Courtney Lee (and O.J. Mayo) remains on hold, but E`Twaun's performance so far might have eased some concerns about the Celtics' backcourt depth.
Watching the game, I tried to key in on what Fab Melo did off the ball. He used his quick footwork to draw a charge and was generally in the right spot in help situations. He got burned a couple of times in one-on-one coverage, but he wasn't necessarily playing bad D. At seven feet, he lays off other big men, thinking that he can make up the distance with his length. He's got all the makings of a solid contributor, but his maturation will truly be accelerated when Kevin Garnett gets his hands on him. A great defensive center has to always be in beast mode. Think Kendrick Perkins' scowl or Dikembe Mutombo's finger wag. KG will instill that in him. That attitude will help him on the offensive end, too. He's got great form with his jumper and I think it's just a matter of confidence with him. He had some nice spin moves in the paint. One hit the side of the backboard, but at least the footwork is there.
I'm not sure how it works in terms of summer league invites and any proprietary rights to players who aren't under contract by the team, by Dionte Christmas may have played himself into a camp invite today. He's been solid all week but today's 21-5-4 performance may have solidified a spot for Vegas and possibly training camp in October. He had one sick behind-the-back pass to Melo on the break that we'll see on summer league highlight reels whenever NBATV runs summer league highlight reels. He's another one of those players that fits the E`Twaun Moore/Kris Joseph mold: not necessarily a great athlete, but show's a keen understanding of the game and can score from anywhere on the floor.
He's been a fringe NBA player with appearances in summer leagues the last three years and has played professional in the Czech Republic, Greece, and Israel. He's got a great story and as much as I'd love to see him in training camp, realistically, he'd have a better shot at making on another team. With potentially five rookies and sophomores already on the roster, I doubt Danny uses another spot for another project.