Fab Melo was back in the Celtics dressing room last night, but he knows it's probably just a matter of time before he finds himself driving up I-95 back to Portland, Maine, and the NBA Development League.

And the very young (in basketball years) 22-year-old center is more than fine with that.

"Yeah, I expect that," Melo said before the Celts took on the Kings. "And, in a way, it's a good thing for me. I'm improving, and I need to play basketball. That's how you do it."

There can be no question the native of Brazil who took up the game late has made great strides in his D-League time. He's averaging 11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and a league-best 3.6 blocks in 27.7 minutes a night over 19 games, 17 of which he started.

Those looking for signs that he can take the next step to an NBA rotation got a stat-line-full of evidence when Melo went for 15 points, 16 rebounds and 14 blocks in an 85-78 win over Erie last month.

But while his figures have calmed down from that peak, the 7-footer is learning some of the nuts and bolts of Celtics/NBA ball that will bring him back here to stay, and contribute, at some point.

"Yes. Definitely," Melo said when asked if his D-League time has been helpful. "I'm more experienced. I'm more comfortable playing, especially with the rotations on defense, I'm a lot better now. That's the thing I'm really more comfortable with now."

The techniques the Celts and other clubs use are different than what he's seen.

"I've never done that before," Melo said. "We played a lot of zone (in Brazil), but we played a lot of man(-to-man), as well.

"At Syracuse, it was two years of zone defense there. So I didn't defend man-to-man for a long time.

"I think the place I improved the most was just on defense, understanding how things work. Offensively I've been developing my hook shot, my baby hook. That's something I've been doing a lot."

He has also been keeping a better eye out for potential danger. Just weeks ago, Melo suffered a concussion when he caught his head on the piece that hangs down in the middle of a double-door setup.