The Celtics kicked things off in Las Vegas with a bang Monday afternoon, shaking off a brutal offensive start in the first quarter in a big way to cruise to a 87-69 win over the Atlanta Hawks, who may have one of the worst summer league rosters out there. Plenty of balance from the troops after they started the game just 1-of-10 from the field, giving us some ugly basketball for the first six minutes of the contest. The flood gates opened after that though, as Boston hit 16 of their next 28 shots, helping them pull away from the lackluster Hawks. Let’s get to the players.
THINGS/PLAYERS I LIKED
Fab Melo – There will be plenty written about the Brazilian big man over the course of the summer, but he played some of his best basketball in a summer league uniform today. Seven points, five rebounds, a nifty assist in the lane and a charge drawn in 18 minutes of action won’t lead Sportscenter, but was enough of a flash to catch everyone’s eye in the gym. Coach Ty Lue called it the best basketball he has played thus far in green. There will be plenty of growing pains for Melo this summer and beyond, but the kind of potential he displayed today showed why the C’s took a chance on him at 22 in the first round.
Jared Sullinger’s Rebounding and Toughness – Seven more boards today in 24 minutes, to go along with eight free throw attempts. Sullinger is undersized playing center in this league, but he makes up for it using his body incredibly well near the basket. He welcomes contact when the ball is in his hands, and has the craftiness to get his defender in the air and get a good shot off despite getting fouled. His rebounding prowess has been well documented all summer long and showed itself again today. It will do wonders for his playing time if he can maintain it once he starts playing with the big boys.
Dionte Christmas Doing Everything – The guy tore it up in Orlando, pushing the Celtics to have them bring him back for this week and he has picked up where he left off. Not a great shooting outing (4-of-10), but 11 points, five rebounds, two steals, two assists and plenty of heads-up plays on both sides of the floor. By the end of this week, I think at the least Christmas will have a training camp invite from Boston and I wouldn’t rule out a one-year guaranteed deal eventually as well, based on how many other suitors he has lining up for his services. He’s been that good.
Kris Joseph – Jump shot wasn’t going down early, but he stayed aggressive attacking the basket, before finding his range from deep as the game progressed. Tied a team-high with 14 points.
No-Name Guards – Jonathan Gibson and Jamar Smith combine with 5-of-7 from three-point range. Not real threats to make the team (barring a big trade) but still a good way to get noticed.
THINGS/PLAYERS I DIDN’T LIKE
JaJuan Johnson – Part of the reason might be the fact that he’s surrounded by so much talent out there, making it hard for him to stand out, but the more I see of the guy, the less I feel like he’ll ever be a factor in this team’s rotation. He’s not being assertive on the offensive end (besides one nice dunk) and the rebounding is a big step below Sullinger. The defense isn’t solid either. He’ll be buried in the depth chart in Boston if he’s not traded in the coming days in a deal for Jason Terry.
Sullinger getting blocked a lot – It’s happening plenty already, and his lack of athleticism means we will be seeing more of it when the real games begin. Be prepared.
John Jenkins – Atlanta’s first round pick did nothing to stand out. Inconsistent shooting (5-of-14), lots of turnovers (4), no real top-notch skills that stood out in his game.
Coach Lue’s Corner (A collection of postgame quotes from summer league coach Ty Lue)
On Melo: “I thought today was his best first half that he’s played the whole summer league. He’s getting better and better, you know, calling out the coverage. I thought he was great on help when guys were getting beat on penetration. Took a charge. Blocked a couple shots. I just thought he was in the right spot a lot in the first half.
On JaJuan Johnson: “JaJuan Johnson is a pick and pop player. He can post. But in the summer league it’s hard. If he’s playing with Rondo, or KG, or Paul, he’s going to get open shots, pick and pops, he’s going to get easy little duck ins … in summer league it’s kind of hard to look for him to score because he’s not going to really do that during the regular season. Just want him to work on his defense, showing, getting back, second effort, stuff like that. Just got to get him better at that because that’s what it’s going to take for him to play this year coming up.”
On Christmas: “Oh, he’s been great. We know he’s been a scorer all his life. Just seeing him come out and make the right pass. Playing hard. Defense. Rebounding the ball. He’s doing everything. Those are the type of players that you want … So i think he’s been playing great, he’s been playing the right way, and definitely he’s been really working.”
Plenty more coming from the players from Hayes and myself over the coming days. Next up for the C’s: a matchup with Leon Powe and the Chicago Bulls tomorrow night at 10pm ET/7pm pacific