Three years ago, Fab Melo began his NBA career as a first-round pick in the 2012 Draft. The seven-footer from Brazil thought his rookie campaign with the Boston Celtics would be the first of many seasons in the NBA. Instead, it was his only.
Two seasons have passed since Melo played in the league. Now, as an incoming class of rookies look to commence their careers in June, he is looking to restart his.
“I learned a lot from what I’ve been through,” Melo told Basketball Insiders. “Now I feel like I know what I’m dealing with.”
After a rookie season in which he spent time in the D-League but played very little for the Celtics, the team traded Melo to the Memphis Grizzlies in August of 2013. The Grizzlies waived him two weeks later, and Melo signed with the Dallas Mavericks. After being cut during training camp, he signed with the Texas Legends of the Development League, appearing in 21 games. In total, he has appeared in just six NBA games (and played only 36 minutes) in his career.
Melo went back to his native Brazil and in April inked a deal with Caciques de Humacao in Puerto Rico. According to Melo, an issue with his visa prevented him from playing there.
This spring, Melo returned to Bradenton, FL, to train at the famed IMG Academy. His sights are set on an NBA comeback.
Melo believes he has the potential to play in the league again and has been working on the areas that he thinks could land him a roster spot. He says his basketball IQ has increased over the years, sparked by the time he played in the D-League, which helped him gain a better understanding of the game. Melo also has seen improvements in his offense.
“I need to be able to run open on the court, that’s one thing I need to do,” he said. “I’ve been working on my defense so that’s the thing that I think will keep me in the league.”
Melo has played well in pick-up games that include other NBA players and prospects such as Rodney Hood (Utah Jazz), Maurice Harkless (Orlando Magic), Vander Blue (L.A. Lakers) and Alex Kirk (who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season). He has been blocking shots, scoring in the post and knocking down jumpers in these games. His confidence has also been on display – playfully trash talking and daring opponents to try to finish at the basket and then proceeding to swat their shot away.
One of the most important changes has come off the court. At Syracuse University, he was a standout athlete. In the pros, he was a young player who hadn’t proven anything yet. The change in scenario required a shift in mentality.
“(In) college, people give everything to you and everything is easy for you,” Melo said. “But in the NBA, it’s not like that. You really got to go get it, and if you don’t get it people are going to take it away from you.”
Melo has a different outlook this time around. Unlike in college when he had to persuade teams he could play in the NBA, now he has to prove he belongs in it. Melo has adjusted his mindset and considers learning how to be professional as his biggest lesson since being drafted.
“I’m more mature,” he said. “I’m more mature as a person and as a player.”
In spite of the ups and downs, Melo has maintained a positive attitude on his basketball journey. He says it hasn’t been hard for him to soak in the lessons along the way.
“Not for me,” he said. “I’m a cool guy. I try to enjoy everything that I do, and even if everything goes wrong, you just try to learn from it.”
Melo said he will “potentially” participate in Summer League. He is currently on a roster for The Basketball Tournament competition this summer.
Melo made an impression his first go around in the league. He hopes to show NBA teams he has improved as a player, on and off the floor, and wants people to see what he has to offer this time.
“Get to know me before you judge me,” Melo said. “That’s all I can say.”
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