Melo, Iverson Drawing Strong Reviews

ORLANDO – You’ve heard of the line “don’t judge a book by its cover,” right? Well, today we’ll mend it to say “don’t judge a center by his statistics.”

Fab Melo and Colton Iverson are two 7-footers who are holding down the center position for the Boston Celtics during summer league games. Neither of these guys are flashy, and neither of them have put up substantial numbers through two games. Both of them, however, have drawn strong reviews from their coaching staff.

Fab Melo takes a hook shot

Fab Melo's coaches have pointed out the marked improvement in his hook shot.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

Melo, who was selected 22nd overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, was chosen with the knowledge that he’d be a project. He was raw – and still is– but Danny Ainge saw his upside. Melo is now a year into his professional development and he is sensing his improvements each and every day.

“You see improvement. You see yourself getting better,” Melo said after the Celtics clobbered the Pistons by 30 points on Monday. “That’s the thing that motivates you – to get better. You’ve got to stay patient that things will come.”

They aren’t coming on like a speeding bullet, but Melo is certainly showing signs of moving forward in his development. Through two summer league games, he carries averages of 7.5 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. He has occasionally fumbled the ball or had his shot blocked, but there is no doubt that he is far ahead of where he was a year ago.

“He’s getting better and better at everything,” said Jay Larranaga, the Celtics’ summer league head coach. “I think he’s shown these first couple of days that his hook shot, he’s been really comfortable with it and he’s making it at a high rate.”

More importantly, Melo is showing that he can be a difference-maker on defense. Of the 13 players on Boston’s summer league roster, Melo is by far the loudest communicator at the defensive end of the floor. That’s one thing that has stood out to Boston’s new head coach, Brad Stevens.

After noting that Melo drew three charges on Monday, Stevens said, “I think that he’s probably picked up the defensive stuff in the past year pretty well, and he’s communicating.”

As Melo understands, that’s exactly what he needs to do.

“I try to be the anchor,” Melo said. “I’m watching everything from the back court, so I’m trying to communicate with my teammates. That helps them a lot.”

But Melo isn’t the only center who’s helping his fellow Celtics out during summer league play. Iverson, who is averaging only 2.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game, is making plenty of friends as well.

Iverson is built like a rock and he plays with reckless abandon. He’s going to throw his body around, and he does so for the betterment of his team.

“I think his teammates love him because he’s going to get you open,” said Larranaga. “He’s going to get you extra possessions. He’s going to be there when you need help.

“He’s just a big, tough, hard-playing dude.”

And those are the dudes that teammates love to play with.

Iverson and Melo have certainly gained some love from their teammates over the past week, but they surely still have a long way to go. The first order of business is to get them into even better playing shape.

Larranaga is currently rotating the two centers with short stints of playing time. As he says, it’s necessary at this point, simply because both of these guys play so hard while they’re on the court.

“I think we talk about it a lot with big guys and we’ve talked about it already maybe yesterday or the day before – fatigue makes cowards of us all,” said the coach. “When you start to get tired, your brain, I think, is the first to go. For all our big guys, the better and better shape they get into, the more we play, the harder we work, you won’t give in to fatigue as much.”

If and when that happens, we’ll be able to see Melo and Iverson go full bore for long stretches of play. That will surely lead to some much more impressive numbers in the box scores.

Until that happens, don’t allow yourself to judge these centers by their stats. Judge them by the good things they’re doing during their calculated stints of playing time.