Monday, July 2, 2012
C's unveil rookies Sullinger, Melo, Joseph
By Greg Payne
ALLSTON, Mass. -- Celtics rookies Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph were introduced to the media and the community on Monday morning, partaking in a host of educational exercises with students from the Jackson Mann/Horace Mann Educational Complex.
Joined by Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge at the introductory press conference, the rookies each answered many of the same questions that were raised about them prior to Thursday's NBA draft.
Sullinger, who was medically red-flagged by doctors at the NBA draft combine in Chicago for a back issue, said he doesn't suffer from any physical ailments.
"Honestly, I don't have any back problems, but it is what it is," Sullinger said. "I'm just playing basketball now. I finally have a job, and now it's time to take the next step and get ready to play.
Originally projected as a top 10 pick in this year's draft before being red-flagged, Sullinger described the adversity of falling to No. 21 overall as reflective of his path in basketball up to this point.
"If you consider me landing to the Boston Celtics a drop, then I'd do it all over again, without a hesitation," Sullinger said. "I mean, honestly, it's been like that all my life. When I was younger, everybody said I was too big. Going into high school, they said I wouldn't be able to play that fast, going into college, I wouldn't be able to keep up. It's just the way I live my life, obviously, so I'm just ready to get started."
Melo, meanwhile, dealt with his fair share of critics entering the draft after being ruled ineligible for the 2012 NCAA tournament due to poor academic performance. In a early humorous moment at Monday's proceedings, it was Ainge, and not a member of the media, who addressed the elephant in the room. Shortly after Melo introduced his business manager, Rodrigo, Ainge quipped, "Is Rodrigo your academic adviser as well?"
The talk soon turned to Melo's basketball development. The 7-footer is seen as a promising, but still unpolished, product.
"One thing I want to do is just help the team win," said Melo, who was taken by the Celtics at No. 22. "I think I'm good at doing what coach wants me to do, if it's run the floor, or get rebounds, play defense. That's the thing I came here to do, and whatever he wants me to do, I'll be willing to do."
Melo and Sullinger will both be under Kevin Garnett's microscope next season, but Melo was forewarned of Garnett's reputation to excommunicate teammates (particularly rookies) who aren't willing to heed the advice he's eager to administer. Melo, who hasn't spoken with Garnett yet, said he'll be all ears when the two first start working together.
"I want to learn from him," 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."
Joseph, not as highly scrutinized throughout the draft process as Sullinger and Melo, defended his ability to play in a man-to-man defensive system after playing Syracuse's famous zone defense for four years.
"Just like everything else at this level, it's going to be an adjustment for us to make," said Joseph, who was drafted by the Celtics in the second round (No. 51 overall). "The zone did have man-to-man principles, but I definitely played man in my lifetime, you know what I mean? So, I know the basics. I know help side, I know denying the ball. I'm going to have to learn, but once again, I'm going to have to learn about a lot of things at this level, so I'm willing to take that step."
Sullinger will wear No. 7 for the Celtics, while Melo will don his old high school number, No. 13. Joseph will wear No. 43, formerly belonging to old friend Kendrick Perkins.
The three rookies are expected to make their informal Celtics debuts when they participate in the NBA's Orlando Summer League, which runs from July 9-13.