Countdown to Celtics Camp: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster?

The Boston Celtics open training camp on October 1 and we’re counting down the days by examining some of the top storylines for the 2019-20 season. 

Today’s topic: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster out of camp?

In one of the NBA’s wildest summers, one that saw the Celtics swap out an All-Star point guard (Kyrie Irving) for another (Kemba Walker), no Boston player drew as much national attention as Fall, an undrafted camp invite.

Since the start of summer league in Las Vegas, Fall has been the most searched Celtics player on the internet. Try a Google query for “Celtics roster” and Fall is the first suggested player ahead of Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward. It’s been that way since July.

The 7-foot-7 Fall became a sensation not just because of his height but because of his raw abilities and the way he carried himself in the face of rising celebrity. Casual Celtics fans probably can't name a member of Boston’s new-look frontcourt following the departures of veterans Al Horford and Aron Baynes, but chances are they now know Fall.

After going undrafted in June, Fall signed what’s called an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics. That pact is essentially an invitation to work out with the team over the summer and attend training camp. Players that are waived at the end of camp and accept an assignment to the team’s G-League affiliate can earn up to $50,000 for being funneled to the parent team’s minor league squad.

Fall is going to get a chance to state his case for an NBA job at training camp. The Celtics have an open roster spot after waiving Guerschon Yabusele during summer league and the team is bringing in summer league standouts like Fall and Javonte Green to compete for that spot. The Celtics do not have to sign another player but that spot is there for someone to win if they prove themselves valuable enough.

Outside of the 15-man roster, the Celtics also have a pair of two-way player slots that allow young players to develop in the G-League with an ability to be called up to the parent club for part of the season. Boston has already committed those slots to Tremont Waters (a late-second round pick) and Max Strus, an undrafted rookie. But either of those players could be converted to the 15th roster spot — or waived — to open a potential two-way spot for Fall.

The most ideal path for the Celtics would be to funnel Fall to the G-League as an affiliated player if he’s waived after camp but doing such would require the team to expose him to waivers where a rival could snag him on a minimum-salary deal, particularly any team with an open two-way spot.

Outside interest might hinge on what Fall shows during camp, as it will be our first real glimpse of where he stands against NBA talent. He showed well in summer league but there is a great difference in defending other rookies versus trying to joust with NBA veterans like Enes Kanter (though Kanter offered praise of Fall after playing some 2-on-2 with him this summer).

So, does Fall make the final roster out of camp? This writer's belief has been that he can force the team’s hand with his play in camp. If he shows he’s already made strides this summer and that there’s a potential to develop into a serviceable big man, then the Celtics are going to have to think long and hard about finding a way to keep him around. It seems more likely that Boston would elevate, say, Waters to the 15th roster spot and ink Fall to a two-way deal, but is still gets him on the roster.

There is a business component to all this as well. Fall’s development is going to be of high interest, particularly at the minor league level. This summer, the Celtics purchased their G-League affiliate, and one way to guarantee a sold-out arena is to have someone like Fall to generate interest. It’s further incentive to keep him as a part of the program, but only if the team truly believes he has a potential NBA future ahead of him. Danny Ainge has said the team is invested in Fall’s development.

Would the Celtics be brazen enough to expose Fall to waivers in hopes of simply pushing him through to the G-League as an affiliated player? It seems like a risky move, even if Fall has a rough camp. But if someone else kicks down the door to that 15th spot, and if Waters and Strus hold firm to those two-way spots, it might be a dice roll the team must take.

Abby Chin: Two-way player

We’ve seen situations change quickly in the past when different opportunities pop up for the guys at the end of the bench. I don’t think the Celtics would mind getting a glimpse of Tacko at the NBA level. But he’s clearly not ready to be an every-night contributor.


Sherrod Blakely: Two-way player

Prepare for Tacko Tuesdays to become a mainstay of the Maine Red Claws this season. At 7-foot-7 and still learning the NBA game, Tacko has too much size, potential, and drawing power to let go. He's not quite good enough to hold down the 15th roster spot but slotting him into one of the two-way contracts — that means Boston would likely waive Max Strus — makes a lot of sense.

Max Lederman: Two-way player

I think they'll end up keeping his rights with a two-way deal. He's too fun to get rid of but probably not worth a spot on the 15-man roster. That said, he's a massive body to throw out there versus teams who deploy traditional bigs.

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Bradley Beal's historic game vs. Celtics didn't stop Jayson Tatum's trash talk

Bradley Beal's historic game vs. Celtics didn't stop Jayson Tatum's trash talk

BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum has been battling Bradley Beal since high school, so he knows all of the St. Louis native's tricks.

Beal used all of them Wednesday night.

The Wizards guard exploded for 44 points on 17-of-27 shooting in Washington's 140-133 loss to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. For context, Beal is just the sixth NBA player to score 44 points or more at the new Garden since it opened in 1995.

A few of Beal's buckets came against Tatum, a fellow St. Louis native who looked to Beal as a "big brother" growing up and now works out with the All-Star guard every summer.

But even as Beal lit up the Celtics, Tatum found a way to trash-talk his close friend and mentor by fixating on one of Beal's rare misses with Tatum guarding him in isolation.

"(He did a) between the legs, between the legs into a stepback -- I knew that s--- was coming -- and he missed it," Tatum recalled after the game. "So I told him, 'He don't really score on me 1-on-1. He's gotta use a screen.' "

Take your victories where you can get them, right?

Tatum isn't naive, though. When asked if his familiarity with Beal's game makes it easier to guard the two-time All-Star, Tatum responded:

"I mean, he still had 44. St. Louis guys can hoop. That's what it is."

Tatum didn't elevate to Beal's level Wednesday night but still did plenty of hooping, dropping 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting to put Monday's 1-for-18 performance in his rearview mirror.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

BOSTON -- The final numbers for Jayson Tatum in Boston’s 140-133 win over Washington - 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting - are not going to inspire any “M-V-P” chants or anything like that. 

“Better than one-for-eighteen,” said a grinning Tatum, referring to the horrendous shooting performance he had in Boston’s win over Dallas on Monday. 

Tatum has had some off nights shooting this season, but the woeful performance against Dallas was historically bad. It was only the ninth time in NBA history that a player shot that poorly while taking 18 shots from the field. 

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, who knows Tatum better than anyone else in the NBA, said going into the game Wednesday night that the third-year forward was going to have a solid bounce-back performance. 

Beal said he anticipated Tatum would come out, “gunning. I know it.”

He added, “He forgot about that game and is looking forward to this one.”

He was right. 

Tatum didn’t take long to get it going offensively against the Wizards (2-7), scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone on 5-for-9 shooting from the field. 

Hitting up the practice facility within hours of the Mavericks game on Monday was part of Tatum’s put-that-one-behind-me program that as we saw against Washington on Wednesday, worked pretty well. 

When asked why he went to the practice facility right after the Dallas game, Tatum replied, “Just see some shots go in, really. Try to get my mind off the game and get back in a rhythm.”

Kemba Walker said he spoke with Tatum shortly before the game. 

“I told him, ‘You know, every night is not going to be the best night. It’s all about the bounce back,’” Walker recalled. “And he bounced back tonight. It was a huge game; a big game from him.”

It was important not only for the Celtics to continue on their winning ways, but also for Tatum’s growth into someone that many believe will eventually rank among the best in the NBA. 

“He’s a special talent,” Walker said. “I’m excited [about] the way he handled tonight’s game.”

Beal echoed similar sentiments about his fellow St. Louis native who also attended the same high school (Chaminade College Prep) as Beal years later.

“He’s a star, man; a star in the making,” Beal, who dropped 44 points on the Celtics, said of Tatum. “It’s amazing to be a part of his life, to see him grow every year to where he is now.”

The 26-year-old Beal has been an All-Star each of the last two seasons, so he knows all too well how challenging it can be to make that leap from being a good player, which is where Tatum is now, to being an All-Star, which Tatum has not been coy about as being one of his many goals. 

“He’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to hit bumps in the road,” Beal said. “He’s going to go through adversity. That’s just going to make him better and stronger.”

And seeing him up close now, Walker has gained a greater appreciation for not just Tatum’s talent but the amount of time he puts into his game to get better. 

“From his first season, watching from afar, and now being his teammate, I love the way he works on off days to improve his game,” Walker said. “We need that kid; we need him a lot. We need him to score big points for us and we need him to take on those challenges. There’ll be a lot more big games for that guy.”

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.