Celtics

Brian Scalabrine on Tacko Mania: I know what it's like and I'm all in

Brian Scalabrine on Tacko Mania: I know what it's like and I'm all in

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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Next step for Celtics: More poise under pressure

Next step for Celtics: More poise under pressure

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics’ fourth-quarter execution the past two games can be summed up in one sequence.

After clawing their way back into Thursday night’s visit from the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston found itself down 3 with 25.7 seconds to go with the ball. But the Sixers applied full-court pressure and inbounder Jayson Tatum panicked a bit while waiting for Jaylen Brown to race back to receive the pass. Brown ultimately got tangled with Josh Richardson and fell to the floor as Tatum’s pass sailed wide and bounced out of bounds near the Sixers' bench.

Painful as it would have been, the Celtics could have burnt their final timeout. They could have simply handled Philadelphia’s pressure better and not fumbled the ball — and the game — away.

Ultimately, great teams find a way to win this sort of game. Or the one 24 hours earlier when Boston kicked away a double-digit fourth-quarter lead in Indiana.

Save the excuses about available bodies and bad calls and whatever else you want to blame. The Celtics, seemingly unflappable in the face of in-game adversity early in the year, wilted twice against primary Eastern Conference rivals the past 48 hours.

Because of that, Boston arrives at a very random five-day December break in its schedule at a respectable 17-7 overall, but with a bit of a sour taste from dropping two games against potential East playoff foes. The Celtics have slipped to fourth in the conference with Philadelphia executing a leapfrog after Thursday’s 115-109 triumph at TD Garden.

“We just have to learn how to win,” said Kemba Walker, who scored a team-high 29 points against Philadelphia but got limited to 8 points with only one field goal after the intermission. All this one day after Boston wasted a 44-point outburst when Indiana rallied for a 122-117 victory.

"We have a lot of lapses during these games. We have stretches where we’re playing super well. And then we have lapses,” said Walker. “We just have times where we’re just — it’s bad. It just looks really bad. So we just have to tone that down a little bit, just try our best to put a 48-minute games together. And that’s going to take everybody.”

Maybe it’s greedy to suggest the Celtics should win these sort of games. After an opening-night loss in Philadelphia, Boston ripped off 10 straight wins and had won six of seven entering this week’s back-to-back. These young Celtics had been so cool under pressure that it’s been a bit jarring to see them get sloppy and shoot themselves in the foot with mental miscues.

"I think, going in, when you look at the schedule you know this is going to be a tough one but, once you’re in the heat of the moment, you’re not really feeling those effects,” said Gordon Hayward, who departed Wednesday’s game in Indiana after getting hit in the nose but didn’t look overly hindered against Philadelphia.

"I think two emotional losses for us. Certainly, it’s tough in games that go down to the wire. I felt like we had chances in both. But it is what it is. It’s a long season, it’s part of it. We’ve got to try to learn from it and move on but we can’t blame it on legs. We’re professional athletes. We should be able to handle that.”

Yes, Marcus Smart would help in these situations. But the Pacers were playing without Victor Oladipo, and the Sixers didn’t have Al Horford, who got a standing ovation when shown on the Philadelphia bench at the start of the second quarter.

The Celtics, if they want to be honest-to-goodness contenders, need to win these sort of games. It was one thing to find a silver lining when they took the Clippers to overtime last month on the road but the last two games have lacked the defensive focus displayed during much of Boston’s early-season success.

To be sure, there are positives to pluck from these two games. Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter held up surprisingly well while jousting with Joel Embiid. Philadelphia’s All-Star big man finished with 38 points on 12-of-21 shooting with 13 rebounds and 6 assists. He did a nice job dominating in 1-on-1 matchups and showcased his passing skills while generating open looks for teammates when Boston sent multiple bodies at him.

Kanter turned in his best game of the year and Theis played well for much of the night. The duo combined for 36 points and14 rebounds, essentially negating Embiid’s output (though his impact went far beyond those two stat categories).

The next step for these Celtics is consistently staying poised in high-pressure moments. Players have to avoid careless turnovers, they have to be willing to work for good looks on the offensive end, and they can’t lose focus on the defensive side.

While it’s obvious the Celtics never consider themselves out of a game, they’ve got to be better when things get tense.

"One thing I love about us is that we’re not quitting. We’re still fighting through adversity,” said Walker. "When things are getting rough we’re not putting our heads down, man. We’re competing at a very high level. So it can only go up from here.”

Unfortunately for Stevens, it’s plays like the inbounds turnover that will gnaw at him until the Celtics get back on the practice court next week. Boston doesn’t play another game until Wednesday night in Dallas.

That’s a lot of time to ponder how Thursday’s game got away. And Wednesday’s before it.

“We didn’t get the ball [inbounds],” Stevens said after Thursday’s loss. "I think that’s obviously -- you gotta be able to do those things in the biggest moments and we didn’t get that done.”

Blakely's Takeaways: Kanter shows his worth despite losing effort>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Joel Embiid pays Celtics fans the ultimate compliment ... but still loves silencing them

Joel Embiid pays Celtics fans the ultimate compliment ... but still loves silencing them

BOSTON -- Few professional athletes embrace hate like Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia 76ers big man channeled recent criticism from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal into a tour de force performance at TD Garden on Thursday night, tallying a season-high 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to hand the Boston Celtics their first home loss, 115-109.

Embiid also fed off the Garden crowd, which booed the big man heartily throughout the night.

The 25-year-old tipped his cap to the Boston faithful after the game, admitting the loudest crowd he's ever dealt with in an NBA game was the Garden during a second-round playoff game in 2018.

"They've got great fans. They're loud," Embiid said. "The loudest (game) I've ever been a part of was actually here in Game 2, two years ago in the playoffs.

"We were up by 20 and they made their run. It was loud and my ears were popping. That's the loudest (it's) ever been (for me) in an arena."

The Celtics stormed back to win that game 108-103, taking a 2-0 series lead over Philly en route to a five-game series win.

A year and a half later, Boston wasn't so lucky.

Embiid had been in a bit of funk over his last few games but seemed revitalized by the hostile Garden environment, relishing in making big plays like this dagger 3-pointer in the fourth quarter:

"They talk a lot of trash, and I like that," Embiid said. "It gets me going. I had that fun mentality about me tonight. Just reacting to them and playing off it."

Boston and Philly will meet twice more this season, with the Sixers coming to the Garden again on Feb. 1. Celtics fans can boo Embiid all they want, but they should be warned that it may not have the desired effect.

"Joel really set the tone of how we were going to play today," Sixers teammate Tobias Harris added. "His energy, his interactions at timeouts and dead balls: He was the man today."

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.