Melo Makes Noise in Maine with Red Claws

BOSTON – When Fab Melo was chosen by the Boston Celtics with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the buzz word that was associated with the selection was “potential.”

There was no doubting that the 7-footer out of Syracuse had loads of it. The only questions were if he would tap into it, and if he would, when? Melo is quickly beginning to answer those questions with the Maine Red Claws.

Fab Melo

Fab Melo scored a career high 32 points Wednesday night in Idaho.
Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/Getty Images

Melo was with the Celtics for a month and a half to begin the season. He was provided with an incredible opportunity during that time to learn from cagey veteran big men like Kevin Garnett and Chris Wilcox, but when November 14 arrived, Melo’s learning went north. Literally.

That was the day that Boston shipped Melo 120 miles north to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. The big man has essentially been there ever since. He was recalled from the Red Claws on December 8 in order to receive treatment from the Celtics’ training staff on a strained hamstring, but other than that, he has been with Maine for the long haul.

Melo’s first eight games of the season with the Red Claws were relatively modest. His averages of 7.1 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks per game were decent, but they certainly weren’t indicative of a first-round draft choice who could be a game-changer in the future.

Take those numbers and throw them out the window (for now). There has been a whole different Melo on the floor over the past six days.

Melo took the Development League by storm on Saturday by notching the most ridiculous triple-double the league has ever seen. The big man shot 50 percent from the floor en route to 15 points, and he also grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds against the Erie Bayhawks. The jaw-dropper of the day was this: Melo blocked a league-record 14 shots.

Let’s put that into perspective. He blocked one out of every 5.8 shot attempts by the Bayhawks. He blocked 16.7 percent of the shots Erie attempted in the entire game. Only three players in the entire game (including Melo himself) attempted as many shots as he blocked.

That was an incredible performance by Melo, but the Celtics coaching staff took it with a grain of salt. After all, it was an anomaly rather than a regularity.

“I haven’t talked to anyone that thinks he’s ready to come up yet,” Rivers said after being asked about Melo’s performance.

Well, Rivers might want to pick up his phone and give Maine another call, if his phone hasn’t rung already.

Melo did it again last night in Boise, Idaho, against the Idaho Stampede. He didn’t notch a triple-double, but boy, was he close. Melo’s final stat line featured 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and nine blocked shots. How impressive were those 32 points? His career high in scoring during two seasons at Syracuse – against collegiate players, rather than pros – was 14 points.

Now that’s development.

Melo isn’t going to be Boston’s starting center tomorrow or next week, but there’s no doubt that he’s much closer now than he was a week ago. The potential that we heard about was back on draft night has finally been tapped.