ORLANDO — What’s it like having an entire arena chanting for you to get put into a game?
I’ll tell you what, at first, I didn't like it. Not because I didn't like the attention — that was fine. It was more about disrespecting the guys who built the lead. With the Celtics, I would go in when we were up 20, but I always felt like I wasn't the one who should be getting the attention. It should be Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, or Kendrick Perkins.
But I really embraced that role in Boston after we won the championship in 2008. Then, the two years in Chicago, I really embraced that role. I started loving it — like really loving it, and trying to give the people what they want.
So, I know what it’s like to be in Tacko Fall’s size-22 shoes. And I’m all for TackoMania.
I find the crowd is gravitating towards Tacko because they really want him to succeed, they want him to make it in the NBA. It's just something that we have never really seen before. He’s this massive guy who went undrafted and now he’s trying to make the team and I think that people gravitate towards that. He's an incredible person, which I always think goes a long way when it comes to this type of stuff. I think the momentum is like a tidal wave. First, you see him, then you hear him speak, and then you hear other people speak about him, and I think that all has a lot to do with TackoMania.
Those that think all this is happening because he’s got a unique first name don’t get it. It used to be about the little guy. It used to be Spud Webb, it used to be Isaiah Thomas. You rooted for the little guy to make it in the NBA. Or, for me, you rooted for the white guy to make the team. It’s not that anymore, the NBA has changed.
If Tacko wasn't an unbelievable person, if he wasn't so well-spoken, if he wasn't liked by his teammates or his coaches, then this would not exist. I think that there's momentum to this and he knows how to handle it as well, which, in my opinion, bleeds into more TackoMania.
I’ll admit, when I was in the huddles at the preseason game against the Hornets on Sunday, I couldn’t stop staring at Tacko. He's just so big. He's a giant among giants. It’s amazing that he’s just that much bigger than everybody else. I wasn’t staring in a bad way, it’s just hard not to look at him. It’s like how people probably stared at Andre the Giant.
Will Tacko make the Celtics’ roster? I hope he does. But it will be interesting if he spends time in the G-League. If he’s traveling on an NBA plane, Tacko will be fine. But the G-League is a grind. I don’t know how he’s going to travel on these commercial planes and buses and all that stuff. But I do believe that, if he plays 25-30 games in the G-League, it will help him out tremendously for his future. I want Tacko to be around the NBA team but I ultimately want him to have a 14- or 15-year career in the NBA — and that’s what I’m really rooting for.
When people were chanting for me in Boston, I was more established at that time. I think Tacko just needs to continue to work on being a better player. There are some dog days of the NBA and it will be interesting if he does make the roster, if coach Brad Stevens uses Tacko in different situations. Think about it: If there's a dog day in the NBA and you put him in the game, he can do some things that can really change the game. From a basketball standpoint, guards can press up more, and they can force guys to drive. Tacko can sit back instead of waiting for people to run their offense and go side to side. Everyone could just deny the wings and press up because there's no help and only Tacko at the rim. So there are some things that Tacko could do.
And then the jolt to the crowd. Those dog days of January, February, early March, it will be interesting if Brad might use him for three or four minutes in the second quarter to boost energy. Or if things are flat in the third quarter and you use Tacko to boost the energy in the building. So, there is a little bit of strategy that you can use surrounding him given the hype as well.
I don’t think teammates will get jealous of the attention that Tacko gets. I was lucky, all my teammates supported me. In Boston and Chicago, we were winning and all the guys knew what it was for me. I was a guy that they liked and that helped. Just like the word coming out on Celtics camp and every coach that I’ve talked to says that Tacko is an unbelievable person. He’s humble, hard-working, and well-spoken. It’s a unique set of skills that he possesses as a human being, let alone a basketball player. And he’s going to continue to get better.
I could see how, if a teammate gets sent to the G-League versus if Tacko gets sent there, some talk of resentment could happen. But no one would ever hold it against Tacko. Those are decisions that people are making at way above everyone's pay grade. All these young guys just gotta play and it's all about getting better.
My advice to all those guys is that it's not even about making money this year. It's about becoming a better basketball player because, Javonte Green and Tacko and Tremont Waters, these guys all want to be 10-year NBA players, so their best bet is to be the best basketball players they can be. And maybe that means a lot of games in the G-League and maybe that's getting a two-way deal. I don't think they should be focused on the other stuff.
No matter what happens, TackoMania is fun to watch right now. And everyone should just enjoy it.
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