Celtics

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."

Agent doesn't expect Gordon Hayward to return this season, but foresees full recovery

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Agent doesn't expect Gordon Hayward to return this season, but foresees full recovery

PHILADELPHIA --  Only hours removed from surgery to repair a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibia injury, Gordon Hayward’s agent tells NBC Sports Boston that his client is already attacking the rehab process.
 
“We expect him to have a full recovery,” agent Mark Bartelstein said via phone Thursday.
 
That said, Bartelstein also noted that it’s unlikely that the 6-foot-8 forward will return to action this season.
 
“We don’t have a timetable or anything like that for him,” Bartelstein said. “It’s about getting better, healthier every day.”
 
The Celtics released a statement Thursday afternoon indicating Hayward underwent successful “bony and ligamentous stabilization surgery for the fracture dislocation of his left ankle.”
 
Performing the surgery was Drs. Mark Slovenkai and Brian McKeon at New England Baptist Hospital, with Dr. Anthony Schena assisting followed by consultations with Dr. David Porter of Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.
 
Hayward suffered the injury in the first quarter of Boston’s 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday when he was attempting to catch a lob pass from Kyrie Irving.
 
On the play, Hayward landed awkwardly on his ankle, which contorted in a way where it was clear immediately that he would be out of action for a significant amount of time.
 
Since the injury, Hayward has received an amazing amount of outpouring of well-wishes and prayers from Kobe Bryant, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and a cast of other current and former athletes. Both Edelman and Gronkowski know all too well about the challenges associated with returning to play after an injury.
 
"Go into rehab just like you go into anything else: dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you’re 100 percent. He wouldn’t be where he is now if he wasn’t a hard worker.”
 
And then there are the Celtics fans, whose support has been impressive.
 
Hayward delivered a pre-recorded message to the fans at the TD Garden that was aired on the Jumbotron high above half court prior to Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Even after the video ended, there was no escaping Hayward’s presence was still very much in the building and on the minds of fans.
 
At one point in the 108-100 Celtics loss on Wednesday, Boston fans began a “Gor-don Hay-ward!” chant that soon swept its way throughout the TD Garden.
 
“It has been a bit overwhelming the amount of support that Gordon has received,” Bartelstein said. “It touched him in so many ways. The outpouring he got, certainly all the fans in the arena last night, from players around the league … it meant the world to him. And obviously, going through something like this, it’s devastating. So, to see so many reach out to him, it means the world to him and his family; there’s no doubt about it.”