Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: How will Tacko Fall benefit from extended time on the Red Claws?

Celtics Spotlight: How will Tacko Fall benefit from extended time on the Red Claws?

Even Boston Celtics players admit they’ve caught Tacko Fever.

“I can’t lie, I like to see Tacko [Fall],” said Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown. “It’s hard not to [root for him]. I think he can really play. … I think Tacko is a pro and I think he works hard. I enjoy watching him play because he’s a great guy, fun to be around, great personality, super smart and intelligent, and articulates very well. Tacko is my guy.”

Brown had been gushing about Boston’s entire rookie class but saved some of his biggest praise for Fall, the 7-foot-7 behemoth who recently earned a 2-way contract with the Celtics after becoming one of the NBA’s biggest stories with his play at summer league.

Fall will get to spend 45 days with the Celtics and the rest of his time with the Maine Red Claws of the G-League, where a mountain of game reps await a mountain of a man.

Spotlights: Walker | Smart | Brown | Hayward | Kanter | Tatum

Brown seems certain Fall will be a full-time NBA player sooner than later. Fall’s teammates have seen how hard he works in training camp, how much progress he’s made in just four months since somehow going undrafted.

It’s why players like Brown have fully embraced TackoMania and are as excited to see Fall get into the fourth quarter of a preseason game as the fans who spent the first 3 ½ quarters chanting for him.

It’s a successful season for Fall if… 


… he uses his G-League time to advance his game. He’ll be the developmental league’s glitziest attraction but will still have the opportunity to expand his skills outside the harsh NBA spotlight. Fall can make mistakes and grow without being overly scrutinized. The Celtics can pull him up for roughly a quarter of the NBA season and either utilize him as emergency big-man depth or simply allow him to get a taste of the pro experience. It’s a successful season if fans are still chanting for a tiny glimpse of Tacko in lopsided NBA games in April.
 

It’s a disappointing season for Fall if… 

… his progress flat lines. It seems almost impossible that will happen considering his work ethic, but there’s still so much Fall must learn and develop to emerge as a legitimate NBA rotation player. The potential is tantalizing but Fall must continue to grind to get to the point where he can hang with NBA-caliber bigs on a nightly basis.

2019-2020 Outlook

By simply forcing Boston to make roster moves to keep him around, this season is already a victory for Fall. He’s going to be the biggest celebrity the G-League has seen and make the now-Celtics-owned Red Claws the hottest minor league ticket around. That notoriety is good for Fall but his teammates have stressed to him to stay focused on basketball. If he continues to blossom, Fall will position himself for a lengthy NBA career. For everyone in New England with Tacko Fever, it’s a victory that we get to monitor that progress for at least six more months.

Tacko Time? C's to sit many key rotation players vs. Cavs

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

BOSTON — With Gordon Hayward set to return possibly as early as Monday night’s game against Cleveland, he’ll be rejoining a squad that’s playing great basketball which has them among the NBA’s top teams.

But here’s the thing. 

Before suffering a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand which has been surgically repaired, Hayward and the Celtics were playing the best basketball of any team in the league. 

Can they get back to where they were with Hayward?

If they do, look for Boston to make notable strides in the following areas of play. 

OFFENSIVE OPTIONS

Now keep in mind, even when Hayward was healthy, the Celtics weren’t exactly killin’ the game with a ton of points or red-hot shooting. 

What they did more than anything else was create a pick-your-poison scenario on a game-to-game basis for defenses.

While there’s some element of that still around in his absence, there’s no debate that Hayward’s presence makes Boston a much more dangerous team to defend. 

And upon his return, the Celtics will be even more dangerous, thanks to the emergence of Jaylen Brown, who has been delivering All-Star quality production with Hayward out, along with the solid contributions Boston has been getting all season from Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. 

DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY

The NBA is all about creating mismatches on the floor, so teams with the ability to switch effectively on defense will find success. The return of Hayward gives Boston another body who has the size, strength and mobility to defend multiple positions. 

When he was healthy, the Celtics' defensive rating of 101.5 was the fifth-best mark in the NBA, which was surprising when you consider they lost defensive anchors Al Horford (Philadelphia) and Aron Baynes (Phoenix) in the offseason.

Boston’s defensive rating without Hayward dipped to 104.7, which still ranks seventh in the NBA. 

And while Hayward’s defensive ability has been questioned in the past, his defensive rating of 100.6 stacks up well relative to his teammates. 

WING DEPTH

If you want to win in the NBA, you better have wings — and that’s plural, not singular. And the Celtics have more than their share of talented ones, which is why the return of Hayward is so vital to the team’s overall success. 

Hayward has the ability to do many things on the floor, evident by his stats this season which touch on all the key categories. 

In addition to averaging 18.9 points per game, Hayward is also grabbing 7.1 rebounds to go with 4.1 assists per game.

Those are good numbers for sure. 

But what makes the Celtics so dangerous is they have not one but two others delivering similar production or better from the wing position, in Jayson Tatum (21.2 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Jaylen Brown (20.0 points, 6.9 assists).

STRONGER BENCH

The Celtics’ second unit has taken its share of hits this season because they don’t score as much as some — OK, most — other reserve groups. Of course that’s partly because Boston has one of the highest-scoring starting fives in the NBA, which means limited opportunities for the backups and thus, less points. 

Because of that, it puts a greater premium on their bench players to come in and impact the game at the defensive end of the floor. 

And the return of Gordon Hayward will provide that group some much-needed depth with what will likely be the return of defensive ace Marcus Smart back to that unit which has been solid this season. 

According to hoopsstats.com, Boston has allowed opposing second units to score 33.4 points per game which is the fourth-fewest allowed in the NBA this season.  

That number will likely take a drop with Smart directing that group more than he is currently. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics will be missing some size on their bench for Monday night's game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Robert Williams has been ruled out with left hip soreness, the team announced Sunday. Rookie Romeo Langford was also ruled out as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered during a game with the Maine Red Claws.

On the bright side for Boston, Gordon Hayward could make his long-awaited return to the court after missing the last month with a fractured left hand.

Hayward originally was slated to return from his injury around Christmas.

The Celtics (16-5) and Cavaliers (5-17) will face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.