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Celtics Lose First Game But Are Big Winners In The Summer League


The lockout-like schedule finally caught up with the JV Celtics and they lost to a hot-shooting Pistons team, 93-79. However, the future looks pretty bright for these rookies and sophomores. The caveat is that this is summer league play and a majority of these guys won't even make the team, but for the Celtics, seeing these five guys rise as the cream of the crop is very encouraging. There's always speculation on whether or not Danny should rebuild or retool, but really, he should be given credit for both right now. He kept the starting lineup intact, picked up Jeff Green and Terry, still has room for three vets (one at the bi-annual), and has five young guys that can contribute in the future.

Now, there have been a lot of comments--some admittedly made by me--that knock some of the current Celtics competing in summer league for not being athletic enough. "Sullinger is overweight and undersized." "E`Twaun Moore won't overwhelm you with his speed and quickness." "JaJuan Johnson needs to add 15 pounds if he wants be a force in the paint." It's a hair trigger reaction born out of seeing LeBron James and Andre Iguodala run roughshod over us in the playoffs.

But I have to say, Danny deserves a lot of credit for his change of philosophy in the draft. In the past, he's fallen in love with athletic wings and upside in guys like J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker, and Gerald Green. Players like that can define franchises for years. More than half of Team USA are those guys. It's always a gamble however and one that Danny has lost time and time again, but in the last three drafts, Ainge has opted for a more cerebral approach. He's picked more polished players, players who can shoot the ball and play defense. They may not be able to jump out of the gym, but they're the gym rat types that care more about making free throws rather than working on their vertical.

After watching E`Twaun Moore and Kris Joseph over the last four days, I'm surprised these guys weren't drafted any higher. Well, it's not that surprisingly really. They don't bowl you over with SportsCenter slams or flashy handles. They're just solid ball players. Moore was off his game today and didn't play as much, but Joseph again turned in a really nice performance. In this interview with HoopsWorld, the Canadian talks about how Paul Pierce was one of his favorite players growing up and it definitely shows. He's not as crafty as The Captain, but he's showcased his ability to score from everywhere on the floor just like PP. He's got the three point shot and can score with contact in the paint. I can really see Danny guaranteeing Joseph's contract (and Moore's, for that matter) for the rest of the season.

There was a concerted effort to get JaJuan Johnson the ball in the post and fittingly for a guy that's often compared to Kevin Garnett, he did what KG would normally do. He faded away and pulled up for a mid-range jumper on most of his possessions. I'm sure Tyrone Lue was thinking, "let's see if JJJ can create his own offense" and today, JaJuan was hitting his shot. He didn't show an ability to pass out of the block like Sullinger, but there may have been a directive to shoot the ball and as hot as he was in the first half, that's OK. It's clear that JaJuan can play, but he's a round peg in a square hole right now. We all want him to be a power forward because that's what Garnett is, but the bottom line is that they're just forwards. Karl Malone was a "power" forward. Charles Barkley was a "power" forward. We just need to accept JaJuan's game for what it is: a sleek shooter with scary length and hops on the defensive weak side.

Jared Sullinger had his first off game but what I liked out of him today was that he showed a little nasty. Four games in four days have taken its toll and he looked a step slow. He didn't get a lot of clean looks and barked a lot at the refs, but with the Celtics down double digits, he decided to muck it up and make it ugly. Dare I say he "Sullied" the game? After dominating the first three days in Orlando, he hit his first speed bump, but instead of sulking and giving up on a seemingly meaningless game, he put his head down and started bulldozing. He made a living at the line by aggressively throwing his body around in the paint. He negated Drummond's size and Austin Daye's length by driving the ball directly into them and creating contact. The biggest difference I see with him and Big Baby is that Baby would try to shot fake his way into a clean look at the basket. That's not Jared. Sullinger is like a honey badger rooting around the paint and clawing his way to a little hook shot.

Fab Melo has great feet for a guy his size. In the first quarter, he executed a pretty agile jump step against Andre Drummond (which was goaltended blocked) but then tracked down a Pistons' fast break for a block. He's not exactly a gazelle out there, but he doesn't lumber around like Kendrick Perkins. The Brazilian credits his background with soccer:

Celtics’ Fab Melo lands on feet

Pick-and-roll defense is the next step, and Melo's foot speed has proven to be a great asset.

"It definitely helped me," said the Celtics rookie, who had five rebounds and a block in the Celtics' 82-73 win against Brooklyn yesterday in the Orlando Summer League. "But that's how it is. Kids in Brazil play soccer. That's what we did. We didn't need goal (nets). We just ran up and down. It definitely helped my footwork for basketball. I can move very well. I'm good laterally."

It's not uncommon for international players to come into the NBA with this one skill.

"Of course, some of the Brazilian (NBA) players like Nene will tell you that they were great soccer players," laughed Rodrigo Viegas, Melo's business manager. "But it's true. I don't know about (Manu) Ginobili specifically, but almost all of the NBA players from Argentina started with soccer. You see it in some of the guys from Africa who come over to the NBA like Serge Ibaka. They all grew up playing soccer, and as a result, they really know how to move.

"If you surveyed most of the international guys in the NBA, you would find that most of them played soccer."

The hope is under Doc's tutelage and KG lighting a fire under his ass, Fab can be the defensive anchor we've been missing since trading #43 to OKC. As the anchor Syracuse's zone defense, he didn't have to move as much but with the NBA defensive rules as they are and the Celtics scheme as complicated as it is, Fab's going to have to learn how to hedge, show, and recover. On several pick and rolls, he lost Andre Drummond on cuts and couldn't contain the ball handler; that's basketball murder because now you have a free PG with a free lane to the rack and a rolling big man unchecked. If Greg Stiemsma does indeed leave Boston for Minnesota, Melo will need to learn quickly.

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