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BOSTON (CBS) – When Danny Ainge selected Syracuse forward Kris Joseph with the 51st pick in last Thursday’s NBA Draft, it marked the second straight year he took a pair of college teammates.
When Joseph heard his name announced with the Celtics, he was relieved he would be going through all the new experiences of an NBA career with fellow Orangeman Fab Melo, who Ainge selected 22nd overall.
“The first thing I thought was we’re going to be making the late-night runs for the veterans together,” Joseph said with a laugh.
Joseph, Melo and first-round selection Jared Sullinger were introduced by the Celtics Monday morning at the Jackson Mann/Horace Mann Complex in Allston. All three were on hand to help their new team unveil a renovated library and multipurpose room that was donated by the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation.
Before breaking in the lab with young students, each player got to hold up their Celtics jersey for the first time; Melo sporting the #13 and Joseph the #43.
Last year, Ainge ended up with Purdue teammates JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. When asked about his recent history of selecting teammates, Ainge chalked it up as coincidence.
“We’re taking the best players that are available,” Ainge said. “At the same time, it is nice to have the rookies have someone with them as they adjust. That is a benefit. If it happens next year, then maybe there is a pattern.
“It’s a coincidence, but they will have a 2-on-2 game with JJ and E’Twaun,” he said with a laugh.
In Melo and Joseph, the Celtics get a pair of players from the one of the nation’s best programs of last year. Syracuse went 31-2 and were a number-1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, eventually falling to the Sullinger-led Ohio State Buckeyes in the Elite 8.
But now all three heading for pro career, together.
“One thing I want to do is just help the team win,” said the seven-footer Melo. “I think I’m good at doing what coach wants me to do; if it’s run the floor, get rebounds, play defense, that’s what I’m here to do. Whatever (Doc Rivers) wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
“It felt like Fab really improved a lot from his freshman to sophomore year. He’s one of the few guys in all of college basketball that blocks shots and takes charges,” said Ainge. “He really defends the paint well; everyone knows we lack size on the interior. Big guys usually take more time to develop than guards but we’re going to put them on a speed course and get them ready to play.”
Many questioned if Melo’s game can translate to the NBA, mixed with the fact he was ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to academics.
But Melo reassured everyone on Monday that he will do what it takes to learn the Celtics’ system.
“I’m a very coachable guy; if they show me what to do I will do it,” he said.
“You have to remember there are three seconds on defense now too,” Joseph reminded Melo.
That is just one of the adjustments Melo will have to make in the NBA. At Syracuse, as part of the famous Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone, Melo would often set up camp in the paint. That is a no-no in the NBA, and the 22-year-old will need to remember that.
But now that Kevin Garnett has reportedly re-signed with the team, Melo will have one of the best teachers in the business.
“I want to learn from him. He’s an energy guy; I have a lot of energy too,” Melo said of KG, who text the soon-to-be rookie after being drafted. “He just said he’s excited to teach me and I’m excited to learn from him.”
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Joseph also told everyone to breathe easy; he has played something other than zone on defense.
“Just like everything else at this level, it’s going to be an adjustment we have to make,” said Joseph. “I’ve definitely played man in my lifetime. I know the basics: the help side and denying the ball. I’m going to have to learn, but I’m going to have to learn about a lot of things on this level. I’m willing to take that step.”
While Melo is looked to make a difference on defense, Joseph could give the Celtics another weapon off the bench on offense. A four-year forward at Syracuse, Joseph also has one of the best to learn from.
“Paul Pierce is one of the guys I’ve looked up to in this league for a long time,” Joseph said of his new captain. “Just the way he can score and create plays for himself and others. Being able to learn from him, a winning player of his caliber, is going to be great for me.”