ALLSTON, Mass. -- Fab Melo first dealt with outright criticism over being ruled ineligible for the 2012 NCAA tournament for Syracuse. Now it seems he'll be the target of jokes related to what some perceive to low intelligence and a less-than-stellar work ethic.
When Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge jokingly quipped Monday about Melo's business advisor, Rodrigo, also being his academic advisor, he joked publicly what many will likely say behind closed doors, or when Melo's back is turned, at least throughout the opening stages of his NBA career.
Later, in an interview with Mike Lupica on ESPN New York Radio, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he, too, joked with Melo about his academic struggles.
“We have no tests, I told him that yesterday,” Rivers said. “I jokingly told him, I said, ‘Listen we’re going to introduce you tomorrow and we’d going to do a Read to Achieve thing (with young students). Are you OK with that?’”
Melo, to his credit, isn't running from it. While not defending his poor academic performance at Syracuse, he maintains that basketball was always his top priority during his time with the Orange.
"It's not a concern at all," Melo said of his academic record at the introductory press conference for Boston's three newest rookies -- Melo, fellow Syracuse teammate Kris Joseph, and Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger -- on Monday. "I did what I had to do on the basketball court, my responsibilities, stuff like that. I did. I struggled with the school. And I don't have to go to class now, so that's something coach or the coaching staff won't have to worry about."
Melo, who was born in Brazil, is not about to dwell on the past. He sounded like a man determined and eager to work, and -- contrary to what his critics might think -- learn, now that an NBA future is in front of him.
"I always listen to people, I'm always looking to learn," Melo insisted.
Melo might not have a choice in the matter, particularly if he has Kevin Garnett barking in his ear at every practice. But for a player like Melo, whose work ethic and focus have been brought into question, is there any better player to have as a role model?
"I want to learn from (Garnett)," Melo said. "He's an energy guy. I have a lot of energy for the game, too. So, with my passion and his passion for the game, I think we're going to do great things."
While Melo and Garnett haven't corresponded just yet, the rookie 7-footer was given an encouraging boost by Rivers, who relayed that Garnett said he was excited to work with him.
Melo and his fellow rookies were put through their first workout as professionals on Monday afternoon, marking the start of his journey to not only launch a successful NBA career, but to have all of the background noise -- the criticisms, the jokes -- become muted. No one talks anymore about how Paul Pierce once dealt with maturity issues. And Melo's hoping that steady production on the court -- particularly to a team with championship aspirations -- will cease the chatter about his collegiate academic marks.
"I'm going to shock some people," Melo said. "A lot of teams, (they don't think) I can play offense. I have good footwork. The thing is, I've played basketball for five years, not a lot of experience. So, that's the thing. When I get used to playing in a system, I'll be able to show them what I'm going to do."