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Celtics rookie Fab Melo at work for the Maine Red Claws.WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics rookie Fab Melo broke out with a monster triple-double -- 15 points, 16 rebounds and an NBA Development League-record 14 blocks -- in the Maine Red Claws' 85-78 loss to the Erie Bayhawks Saturday night, easily the finest performance of his young professional career.
Fellow rookie and former Syracuse teammate Kris Joseph, whom the Celtics have assigned to the Red Claws and recalled numerous times already, was on the court for Melo's eye-opening night, which spoke to the potential the Celtics saw when they drafted Melo 22nd overall in June.
"That was great, man. I know that's what he's capable of," said Joseph, who was recalled to the parent club for Sunday's practice. "He had a few games like that where he blocked a lot of shots at Syracuse, so I knew that he was capable of it. It was just a matter of him getting the rhythm and getting it under his belt and being able to do it.
"I'm sure he knows he's 7 feet, but when you're 7 feet, you have such a great impact on the game, and I think that he really realized that yesterday. I've been telling him, 'Just effort.' All you need sometimes is effort when you're that big. Grab a rebound, offensive rebounds. You know, your height and your size will take you a long way, and with that extra effort, you'll be able to do great things."
Melo's triple-double is just the third in Red Claws history, and he joins fellow Celtic Avery Bradley by holding a D-League record on the defensive end. Bradley tied the league mark for steals in a game when he swiped nine while on assignment in Maine in January 2011.
Joseph said the triple-double was a sign that Melo, who's averaging 8.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks this season, might finally be getting into a groove.
"We were all happy because Fab, we didn't feel like he had been doing as much as he possibly could in the first couple games," Joseph said. "He was still getting his feet wet and he wasn't comfortable yet. And he's been getting better each game. I think this was by far his best game of the season."
"[Melo] was happy," Joseph continued. "He wasn't happy that we lost, but he was happy with his individual performance because he knows that he was capable of doing better than what he had been doing before. So just seeing the final result and seeing that he had a triple-double, he rebounded well, he blocked shots, and he changed the game for us on the defensive end."
Melo delivered his triple-double at an interesting time, with news coming Sunday that reserve center Chris Wilcox could miss up to four weeks due to a thumb injury. On the heels of his best game yet, could Melo get called up to bolster Boston's front line? Don't count on it, according to head coach Doc Rivers.
"I’ve talked to Fab as, ‘How you doing?’ I haven’t talked to anyone that thinks he’s ready to come up yet," Rivers said Sunday. "There might be your answer."
Still, that doesn't necessarily mean Melo couldn't see heightened practice time with the Celtics once the team returns from its upcoming West Coast swing. If the C's are in need of another big body to bounce off of their starters in practice, Melo could see himself shuffling back and forth between Maine and Massachusetts as frequently as Joseph has the last few weeks.
And if he continues to play like he did on Saturday, the Celtics might have to give Melo more consideration down the road.