Rivers wants 'dominant' Melo

Mark L. Baer/US Presswire

Fab Melo delivers a two-handed jam during the exhibition season.BOSTON -- Celtics rookie center Fab Melo is headed for the NBA Development League, but coach Doc Rivers has big expectations for the 7-footer in the minor leagues.

"I think he’ll be very good in the D-League, because there’s not a lot of bigs, so I’m expecting him to almost be dominant," said Rivers. "I don’t think he’ll see anyone his size, or very few guys. [Former Celtics center Greg] Stiemsma is in Minnesota, and Stiemsma was dominant [in the D-League] -- bigs are usually dominant down there."

Rivers admitted the game experience will be good for Melo, but noted the speed of development is different for every player.

"It depends on the big guy," said Rivers. "It’s not taking [No. 1 draft pick] Anthony Davis a long time [with New Orleans]. "It just depends on each individual player, who they are. Fab hasn’t played basketball a long time, it’s just going to take him some time."

The Celtics assigned both Melo and second-round draft choice Kris Joseph to Maine in a move that was anticipated. Rivers has stuck to a 10-man rotation early in the season and Melo had been inactive for all seven games, while Joseph played a total of three regular-season minutes.

Given the new sole affiliation between the Celtics and Claws, Rivers likes that his players will learn much of what Boston runs in its system.

"That’s huge, we have control, too, with how it’s run," said Rivers. "[Red Claws coach] Mike [Taylor] came down and spent the entire preseason training camp with us. So they are running a lot of the stuff we do, and they are running our defensive schemes. So I think it’s terrific."

Both Melo and Joseph were in Maine on Wednesday for their first practice with the team. The Portland Press Herald's Kevin Thomas detailed their first day:

Both Melo and Joseph expected the move.

"This move was really important for me," Joseph said, "to get more reps and more game-time experience.

"I saw (the move to Portland) coming, just how the rotation was. As a small forward, being behind Paul (Pierce) and being behind Jeff (Green), it was tough getting reps, even in practice."

Joseph played in one game for the Celtics, for three minutes.

Melo never dressed for a game; NBA teams can put only 13 of their 15 roster players in uniform each game. Melo and injured guard Avery Bradley were the ones to sit out.

"Of course I wanted to play but I understand the process," Melo said. "I'm getting better every day. I'm working on my game. I have to be patient. My time will come."

Taylor seems excited to get them headed in the right direction with their pro careers.

"Fab started playing late in life," Taylor told the D-League's official website. "But he's got so much upside when he gains on-court experience. What I'm going to do is give him some experience playing the game, coach him and help him try to build the right habits. At the end of his time here, he'll make significant strides."

Taylor added on Joseph: "For Kris, we want to make him more of a complete offensive player and build the right habits defensively within the Celtics' system," Taylor said. "Kris had a really good preseason in terms of practices (in Boston) and was very impressive to the Celtics staff. So this is more about him coming down to get experience and working on part of his game. Hopefully at some point, he'll be back up with the Celtics and being very productive for them."

Rivers admitted the team debated keeping Joseph with the parent squad, but with limited practice time looming, the opportunity for game reps proved more valuable than providing emergency depth and an extra practice body.

With the option for veteran players to dip into the D-League this season, Rivers was asked if he might consider sending Avery Bradley to Maine for some reps as he nears the end of his rehab from double shoulder surgery, but the coach admitted he was uncertain at the moment.

"I don’t know," Rivers said. "We’re not sure yet. I've got to get Mike’s input on how the D-League is. If it’s a physical crazy league, I don’t want Avery down there, either. But we’ll see. That’s a tough one for us because he needs to get back to learning the stuff we are doing. But it would be great to see him play a couple games before we throw him out on the floor."

Rivers' eldest son, Jeremiah, a Red Claws draft pick, is not physically able to compete yet due to an ankle injury. Rivers admitted that, if his son gets healthy and makes the final roster, he'd likely be making the trek up 95 to catch some Claws games this winter.