Tacko Fall

Celtics Notes: Fall, Smart, Kanter, Ojeleye

Tacko Fall has learned to enjoy his status as the latest cult hero in Boston, writes Jared Weiss of The Atheltic. Even though he has gotten into just six game for the Celtics and has played 24 total minutes, fans go crazy whenever the 7’5″ rookie approaches the scorer’s table. He also draws plenty of attention when he goes out in public with his teammates.

“They’ve been really good about it and sometimes I feel bad, ’cause I don’t want to take too much attention from the team,” Fall says. “And especially with coach Brad (Stevens), I don’t want them to see me like Tacko the rock star or Tacko the superstar. If you know me and the person I am, I don’t like to take too much attention away from them. But they actually give me attention, which is crazy.”

Fall’s size and potential make him an easy choice as a fan favorite, even though he went undrafted out of Central Florida last summer. He signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics in July and earned a two-way deal in training camp. He has spent most of his first season with the organization’s G League affiliate in Maine, but still drew nearly a million All-Star votes from fans. Fall appreciates the attention, but said his immediate goal is to obtain a standard contract and eventually a spot in the rotation.

“I didn’t want that to happen, but it kinda gave me more motivation to someday earn that right,” he said of the voting. “You know, earn it on the court and then also have the fan votes where it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve really worked hard for this and all these people (are) cheering me on, wanting me to be there, so I’ve really earned it. It’s like, God put me in that position and I earned it.’”

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Marcus Smart has been fined $35K for “confronting and verbally abusing” officials after Tuesday’s loss to the Nets, the NBA announced (Twitter link). The amount of the fine “reflects his multiple prior violations of acceptable on-court decorum,” the release from the league states.
  • Enes Kanter may see a diminished role for the rest of the season now that the other Celtics centers are finally healthy, observes Alexandra Francisco of MassLive. Kanter has seen a combined 30 minutes over the past three games and didn’t play at all in Saturday’s loss to the Rockets.
  • The short-handed Celtics were able to pull out a win in Cleveland last night because of a career-high 22 points from Semi Ojeleye, writes Mariva Lewter of Heavy. The third-year forward continues to build a reputation by taking advantage of opportunities. “He’s a great worker, he’s a great teammate,” Stevens said. “When everything is not going your way, he’s a guy that you know is in everybody’s corner, and I think that that’s huge when you start talking about team. And you also know he can not play one night and be effective in his role the next.”

Latest On The Dunk Contest Controversy

The judges at Saturday’s dunk contest intended for the event to end in a tie, but their plan failed when three of them awarded nines on Aaron Gordon‘s final jam, according to Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

After Derrick Jones Jr. and Gordon both received 50s on their first dunks in the dunk-off, Jones finished his night with a running slam from just inside the foul line that received a 48. Gordon sought to clinch the trophy in dramatic fashion by jumping over 7’5″ Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, but after a long wait the judges awarded him three nines and two 10s for a final score of 47.

“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” said hip-hop artist Common, who served as one of the judges. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”

A second judge, Candace Parker, confirmed Common’s comments, saying the intent was for the dunk-off to end in a tie, which would have meant a poll of the judges to determine a winner.

“I really felt it was an even battle, and we, as judges, felt the scores should be even and they should just have a judge-off,” Common said after a breath-taking series of dunks from both competitors. “We had the cards. Put your card up for who had the best dunks.”

Gordon started the event with perfect scores on his first five dunks. He expected a sixth after dunking over Fall, and he and the crowd at the United Center in Chicago were visibly dismayed when the final results left him a point behind Jones. It was a familiar experience for Gordon, who also lost the 2016 dunk contest to Zach LaVine in a controversial decision.

“We’re here to do four dunks,” Gordon told reporters afterward. “It should be the best of four dunks. I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s. That’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it’s over. But I don’t know. Who’s running the show?”

There’s more on the wild finish to All-Star Saturday Night:

  • Despite the controversy, Jones believes he was the rightful winner and was unhappy with the score he received on his final dunk, relays Andre Fernandez of The Athletic“When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school,” Jones said. “I know that’s 50-worthy. There’s no way I should have gotten a 48.”
  • Jones also said he could have kept dunking as long as the contest remained tied (video link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I just turned 23,” said Jones, who had a birthday cake wheeled onto the court before his first dunk. “I’ve got legs for days, bro.”
  • Fall tells Shelburne that his role in Gordon’s final dunk wasn’t pre-arranged (Twitter link). After a night that saw several dunks over other people, Gordon picked out the tallest man in the building. “I was scared for my life,” Fall admitted.
  • Dwyane Wade, one of the three judges who gave Gordon a nine on his final attempt, denied that the score was a favor to Jones, his former Heat teammate. “I wasn’t the only one who gave him a 9, let’s talk about that!” Wade said in a video tweeted by Complex Sports.
  • Several commentators suggested that the controversy may affect the league’s ability to get elite dunkers in future competitions. After watching the event, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, who many wanted to see participate this year, tweeted, “Y’all just made my decision easier,” then later sent out a video of American Idol judge Randy Jackson saying, “Yeah, it’s a no from me dawg.”
  • Dwight Howard offered a tribute to Kobe Bryant with his second dunk, taking off his shirt to reveal a Superman jersey underneath, then taking away the S logo to to show a number 24. He told Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that Bryant had agreed to be part of the dunk before his tragic death last month (Twitter link).

Atlantic Notes: Portis, Celtics, Fall, Sixers, Kurucs

Knicks forward Bobby Portis was ejected from Tuesday’s game against the Lakers for a vicious swipe that knocked Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of the game. Portis was fined $25K for “recklessly making contact” above KCP’s shoulders (he hit him in the head) and the big man has apologized for the incident.

“It wasn’t intentional at all,” Portis said (via Alex Smith of SNY.tv). “Went for the ball. Apologies to Caldwell-Pope. Happy to see him back on the court doing his thing. My intent is never to hurt anyone or anything. Just tried to make a play on the ball, missed the ball, and hit him in the head.

“Like I said, that’s not my intent to hurt anybody, but I do apologize and I am sincere for it.”

Portis, who signed a two-year deal with a team option on the 2020/21 campaign this past offseason, could be on the move in the coming weeks — at least one recent report indicated that he has drawn some trade interest.

Here’s more from out of the Atlantic:

  • A year ago, a surprisingly strong Kings’ season meant that the first-round draft pick they sent to the Celtics wasn’t as valuable as initially believed. That may happen to the C’s again in 2020 with the pick the Grizzlies owe them. Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston explores how Memphis’ recent hot streak has affected the value of that top-six-protected first-rounder.
  • In an interview with ESPN (video link), beloved Celtics rookie Tacko Fall spoke about his road to the NBA and how he has adjusted to fame.
  • Derek Bodner of Rich Hofmann of The Athletic preview the Sixers‘ trade options and examine whether Matisse Thybulle should be viewed as untouchable. Their verdict? Moving Thybulle should only be considered if the team has a chance to acquire an impact player in a major deal.
  • Prosecutors from Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s Office turned over the evidence against Nets forward Rodions Kurucs this week in his domestic violence case, writes Andrew Denney of The New York Post. Kurucs, who is facing a series of charges that include third-degree assault and second-degree harassment, is due back in court on February 11.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Celtics Notes: Kemba, Stevens, Injuries, Tacko

New Celtics point guard Kemba Walker is excited to see what his team can achieve on the court when they reach full health. Currently, injuries to Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier are precluding Walker — and fans — from bearing witness to what that could look like.

“Man, we haven’t had our full roster yet,” Walker lamented, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. “I can’t wait for it. It’s been unfortunate. But when we do …” Their 19-7 record slots the Celtics at the No. 2 seed in the East, by percentage points over the Heat.

There’s more out of TD Garden:

  • Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins, the starting center on the squad’s last title team in 2008, has picked Boston head coach Brad Stevens as a frontrunner for 2020 NBA Coach of the Year honors, as NBC Sports Boston’s Justin Leger documents. Perkins singled out Stevens’ “next man up” ethos in the wake of Boston’s myriad injuries thus far. Granted, Perkins achieved his biggest career success in Boston, but he also has three former head coaches elsewhere in the league: Doc Rivers on the Clippers, Alvin Gentry on the Pelicans, and Scott Brooks on the Wizards. Perkins’ former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is the lead assistant coach on Rivers’ staff.
  • 7’5″ two-way rookie center Tacko Fall‘s regular season home debut last night offered an interesting look into the team’s dynamic chemistry, NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg notes. Fall is averaging 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds across his first two NBA games.
  • The latest injury update on Gordon Hayward is significantly more promising than Marcus Smart‘s current status. Coach Brad Stevens doubts Hayward’s lingering foot injury will be a long-term issue, and an MRI taken Thursday showed no structural damage. Smart, meanwhile, has missed the past four games with an eye infection. Stevens revealed a troubling anecdote from his medical staff. “The last report I got (from the training staff), they didn’t think they’ve seen one this bad,” Stevens said, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.

Atlantic Notes: Bullock, Fall, Raptors, Chandler

Reggie Bullock, who underwent surgery in July for a cervical disc herniation, appears to be inching closer to making his debut for the Knicks. According to the team (Twitter link), Bullock has been cleared for full participation in practices, beginning on Wednesday.

Bullock initially signed a two-year, $21MM contract with the Knicks in free agency, but when his health issue arose, the two sides renegotiated a two-year deal worth $8.2MM, with only one fully guaranteed year. At that price, Bullock could be a bargain for New York – or a valuable asset at the trade deadline – if he proves he’s healthy and back to his old self.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier sidelined, the Celtics will call up two-way player Tacko Fall for at least their next couple games, per Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “We’ll just play it by ear, but he’ll be in Dallas and back home after Dallas for our game on Friday (vs. the Pistons),” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “Then we’ll just take it week by week and see what’s happening.”
  • The Raptors have exceeded expectations so far this season and have an impressive 18-8 record, but they still rank just fifth in the Eastern Conference. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic explores whether Toronto is more likely to be a buyer or seller at the trade deadline. As Murphy observes, standing pat or some combination of buying and selling are also viable possibilities for the Raps.
  • Wilson Chandler played more than expected in his Nets debut on Sunday, contributing two points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes of action. For his part, Chandler said he was just happy to be back on the court after serving a 25-game suspension, as Greg Joyce of The New York Post writes. “Every single game, it was kind of like dreadful,” Chandler said of his suspension. “… They could have cut me at any time. I thought about it a couple times.”

Injury Updates: Kyrie, McGruder, E. Davis, Fall

After missing Wednesday’s game in Boston, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has also been ruled out of Friday’s rematch with the Celtics in Brooklyn, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes. Irving, who continues to deal with a right shoulder impingement, will miss his eighth consecutive game as a result of the injury.

The Nets and Celtics face one another four times this season, but the next two games won’t take place until after the All-Star break. Irving’s first opportunity to play his old team will be on March 3, when the Nets travel to Boston again for a prime-time showdown on TNT.

The Nets did get some good injury news on Thursday, as the team announced that center DeAndre Jordan has been listed as probable for Friday’s game vs. the Celtics after missing Brooklyn’s last two contests.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Rodney McGruder, who has been playing a regular rotation role for the Clippers during the team’s seven-game winning streak, has been ruled out of Friday’s game vs. San Antonio after suffering a right hamstring strain on Wednesday, per the team. As Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register details, head coach Doc Rivers is prepared to be without McGruder “for a while,” though the club has yet to announce any sort of timeline for the swingman’s recovery.
  • Veteran center Ed Davis appears to be nearing a return for the Jazz. Davis, who was diagnosed with a fractured fibula nearly four weeks ago, has been upgraded to questionable for Utah’s game in Memphis on Friday, tweets Ben Dowsett of Forbes.
  • Celtics rookie big man Tacko Fall was diagnosed with a right knee bone bruise this week while playing for the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s G League affiliate (Twitter link). Fall is off to a good start in Maine, with 15.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 2.7 BPG in six games (24.0 MPG), but he’ll miss at least the next week or two, according to the team.

Celtics Notes: Hayward, Walker, Fall, Smart

The Celtics may finally have the version of Gordon Hayward that they invested a four-year max deal in, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Two years ago, Hayward suffered a severe ankle injury that wiped out virtually his entire 2017/18 season and limited his effectiveness throughout 2018/19.

But through the first six games of this season, he seems back to his All-Star self, averaging 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per night while emerging as the leader of Boston’s offense. The latest example came last night as he hit 17-of-20 shots from the field and posted 39 points in a win at Cleveland, then told reporters that he hopes to leave concerns about his ankle in the past.

“I don’t think about it,” Hayward said. “I haven’t thought about it for a while. Hopefully you guys can stop asking me questions about that.”

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Some of Kemba Walker‘s former Hornets teammates shared their memories of him with Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in advance of Walker’s return to Charlotte tomorrow night. Walker spent eight years in the city and set nearly every franchise scoring record before signing with the Celtics this summer. “If you didn’t know basketball, and you walked into our locker room, you wouldn’t guess that guy was the star,” Nicolas Batum said. “He never acted crazy with any of that star stuff, like skip practice or be lazy today.”
  • With the G League season starting soon, fan favorite Tacko Fall will probably only make brief appearances with the Celtics, according to Tom Westerholm of MassLive. Fall is limited to 45 days in the NBA, and the team wants to maximize that time in case early-season injuries to its centers continue. “We’ve played multiple games now down two bigs,” coach Brad Stevens said. “So now we’re going to have him come up for one day (at a time) a lot I think, rather than a week at a time or two weeks at a time.”
  • Marcus Smart had an injury scare during a collision last night, relays John Karalis of MassLive“The oblique again, the exact same one, and it knocked the wind out of me,” Smart said in reference to the torn left oblique that limited his availability in last year’s playoffs. “It was scary because I thought the same thing was about to happen that happened last year. But thank God the oblique is stronger and it’s able to withstand hits like that, so that’s good.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/1/19

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • With the Celtics dealing with frontcourt injuries, they recalled rookie center Tacko Fall from the Maine Red Claws for tonight’s game against the Knicks, Nicole Yang of the Boston Globe tweets. The 7’5” Fall made his NBA debut on Saturday, contributing four points and three rebounds in four minutes against the Knicks.
  • The Wizards assigned swingman C.J. Miles to the Capital City Go-Go, the team’s PR department tweets. Miles joined them for a practice as he works his way back from a foot injury.
  • The Grizzlies assigned forward Bruno Caboclo and guard De’Anthony Melton to the Memphis Hustle, the team’s PR department tweets. They went there for practice and then were recalled. They’ll do the same on Sunday. Both have only made brief appearances in two games this season.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Crawford, Fizdale, Fall

As the Nets embark in their first season with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant under contract, the players aren’t the only ones working to establish a new chemistry, as detailed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn’s head coach for the past three years, is known to have strong people skills and a willingness to get to know his players both on the court and off. For Atkinson, this season will be no different.

“I’m trying to personally establish relationships with the new guys, and quite honestly figuring them out off the court and on the court,” Atkinson said, according to Lewis. “We need time to build that relationship.

“You say, ‘Well, haven’t you been watching DeAndre Jordan or Kyrie for a long time?’ It’s just different when they’re in your house and your system and you’re just trying to really figure it out. We’re still in the figuring-out stage. I know we’ve got to move quick. I know this thing goes quick, so we’re trying.”

Despite likely having to play without Durant this season, the Nets have a strong roster led by the likes of Irving, Jordan, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and others as they look to compete for a spot in the playoffs next spring.

Here are some other notes out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Signing Jamal Crawford could make a lot of sense for the Sixers, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer contends. Crawford, who remains a free agent one week into the NBA season, averaged 7.9 points off the bench for the Suns last year. He’s currently represented by agent Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management.
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale deserves part of the blame for the team’s horrendous start to the 2019/20 season, Tommy Beer of Forbes writes. New York has kicked off the season at 0-3, dropping games to San Antonio, Brooklyn and Boston.
  • Celtics center Tacko Fall made his long-awaited NBA debut on Saturday, checking in to cheers from an electric Madison Square Garden crowd against the Knicks, Marc Berman and George Willis write for the New York Post. Fall, a 7-foot-5 center on a two-way deal with Boston, tallied four points and three rebounds in just over three minutes of action.

Celtics Notes: Theis, Strus, Langford, Williams

Daniel Theis is making a strong case to start at center for the Celtics, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports.

Theis, who has only started five of the 129 regular season games he’s played with Boston over the past two seasons, has more experience in Brad Stevens’ system than any other big man on the roster. That could give him an edge over Enes Kanter and Robert Williams. He’s also adept at making defensive switches.

“If you watch closely, that’s a tied-together group on that end of the court,” Stevens said of playing Theis with the other starters. Theis is making $5MM this season but his $5MM salary for 2020/21 is not guaranteed.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Max Strus is a serious candidate to get the 15th and final spot on the opening night roster, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets.  The shooting guard just had his two-way contract converted to a standard two-year deal with a partial guarantee. The guarantee is worth $415K, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. However, he could still be waived, Murphy adds. The 23-year-old Strus went undrafted after playing his college ball at DePaul.
  • Stevens offers high praise for his first-year players, including Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Tacko Fall, and Carsen Edwards, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets“That’s as good of a group of rookie workers that I’ve ever been around …those guys grind,” he said.
  • The team has picked up the 2020/21 options on Jayson Tatum and Williams. Get all the details here.