Celtics

East wide open for Celtics as Kawhi heads west

East wide open for Celtics as Kawhi heads west

The Celtics’ chances at reaching the Eastern Conference finals improved greatly early Saturday morning when Kawhi Leonard took his talents to Southern California.

Even better news for Boston fans: He didn’t sign with the rival Lakers.

Boston finally benefitted from the NBA’s bring-your-buddy-to-work summer. As superstar free agents relocate across the league, and bring the superstar friend of their choosing with them to their new home, the Celtics were left crossing their fingers that Leonard would join the pair-up club instead of trying to keep the Larry O.B. in Toronto or, gulp, form a superteam with LeBron.

He chose the Clippers, but only after they mortgaged their future to pluck Paul George out of Oklahoma City. It was essentially the same script we saw from the Lakers, if only on a bit more of a delay, when LeBron James strongarmed the Lakers into paying a ransom to get Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.

The idea of Kawhi in purple and gold had the league sweating bullets about a superteam with a trio of top-10 players. Instead, the NBA suddenly feels like the "Anchorman" battle scene, with title contenders emerging from every direction with a variety of new looks and weapons.

If Leonard returned to Toronto, the Celtics might have been the fourth-best team in their own division (though, with Kevin Durant sidelined with the Achilles injury, it was probably more like third). But with Leonard heading to L.A., it feels like the East is up for grabs.

Yes, Milwaukee is still the prohibitive favorite as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo is healthy, but especially because the Bucks were able to bring back Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez (though they did lose Malcolm Brogdon). Philadelphia needs to find some depth but the addition of Al Horford gives the 76ers star duo (Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid) a veteran guide who might be key in getting them over the second-round hump.

Indiana made some intriguing additions (and a healthy Victor Oladipo will help on its own) and we’ll see if Miami has something up its sleeves to get more talent around Jimmy Butler. Yes, Kyrie Irving helps the Nets’ immediate chances but time will tell if he can elevate that young core while Durant is rehabbing.

If nothing else, every team in the East should feel like it has a chance, which wasn’t exactly the case with Leonard up north.

The Celtics are no slam dunk to contend and a lot of things still have to break right. Kemba Walker has to show he’s ready for the bright lights of a bigger stage (which seems likely) but the C's success will ultimately hinge on whether Gordon Hayward finds his All-Star form another season removed from his ankle injury and whether Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make pronounced leaps.

Even beyond that, Boston will likely have to reevaluate its roster as the season moves along. Can they get by with Enes Kanter and the Kids in the frontcourt? Is there still too much wing depth and will another move be needed to produce a better-balanced roster?

The Celtics are at least in the mix. And Danny Ainge still has some shiny assets to make a play for any impact player who might come available and inject Boston even further into the contender pool.

Celtics fans can revel in Leonard’s departure and maybe even celebrate how old friend Doc Rivers has a chance now to dash the title hopes of the team that shares the Staples Center with the Clippers. 

The entire NBA feels a bit more open this morning. The Warriors are licking their wounds. Toronto will have to recalibrate on the fly while they build a Kawhi statue. Unlike most recent seasons, it seems like there are two heaping handfuls of teams that rightfully believe they can make the Finals.

And the Celtics, even in an offseason in which their superstar tandem departed for so-called greener pastures, can include themselves in that mix with Kawhi out west.

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Tacko Fall discusses Africa-to-America basketball pipeline on 60 Minutes

Tacko Fall discusses Africa-to-America basketball pipeline on 60 Minutes

When Tacko Fall was 16, he left Senegal for the first time. The big man came to the United States on a special visa to attend high school and develop as a basketball player.

There was only one problem. Fall wasn't very familiar with the game of basketball. And as he described in an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Jon Wertheim, that was part of his tough adjustment to life in the USA.

"I was a big kid. I was huge. I was 7' 2". But I didn't know what I was doing on the basketball court. I had no idea," Fall said, as transcribed by CBS News' Keith Zubrow. "I didn't even know if I belonged in there. Some [of] it was a tough time getting adjusted to that. Just playing every day, working out, practicing, having the regimen. And it was also tough mentally, not having my mom, not having my family around."

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Though Fall had his share of issues at first, including moving to several different states before ultimately landing at Liberty Christian Prep, nearby Orlando, Fla., he ultimately figured everything out. He went to play for the UCF Golden Knights where he was one of their team's best players and the NCAA's best shot blockers. 

While Fall went undrafted after a four-year career at UCF, he caught on with the Boston Celtics during the Las Vegas Summer League. He became an instant fan-favorite and found a perfect role with the squad as a two-way player. And before the NBA shut down, he spent most of his time with the Maine Red Claws continuing to develop his game while averaging 12.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks and making better than 70 percent of his shots.

But Fall knows that there are some that aren't so lucky. And he's hoping that the NBA getting involved with the program will improve conditions for all involved.

"[There's] been many times where I feel like some people have been taken advantage of," Fall said. "They bring them here, then that's it. Then they're just left for their own. And if things don't work out, then they are pretty much screwed. It's getting better. I feel like now that they know what's going on, people are being more careful… especially now with the NBA being involved. And it's only gonna keep getting better."

Hopefully, it does continue to get better as Fall says. And maybe he can work with the NBA to help shape a program that helps all parties involved attain a desirable outcome.

Celtics-Timberwolves simulation: Jaylen Brown's heroics help C's extend win streak

Celtics-Timberwolves simulation: Jaylen Brown's heroics help C's extend win streak

The NBA season has been put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, meaning we may have to wait until mid-April at the earliest to watch the Boston Celtics again.

As a way to make up for the loss of Celtics action, we'll be using the NBA 2K20 video game to simulate each game on the schedule until they finally return.

PREVIOUS FIVE SIMULATIONS

The Celtics were supposed to be taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at TD Garden. Here's how our simulation of the matchup went:

CELTICS STATS

It's no surprise to see Kemba Walker as the Celtics' leading scorer yet again. He's by far been Boston's best offensive player since we've started these simulations. This time, he led the way with 39 points.

But the hero in this game was Jaylen Brown. Late in the fourth quarter, Brown nailed a clutch shot to tie the game at 106. With two seconds remaining, Brown put Minnesota away with the game-winner. He finished with 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting.

Jayson Tatum had a nice performance of his own with 20 points and nine rebounds.

TIMBERWOLVES STATS

Karl-Anthony Towns gave the C's plenty of trouble in this one. The Timberwolves big man led his team in scoring with 30 points and was a force on the glass with 16 rebounds. He also tied the game at 110 with only five seconds left on the clock.

James Johnson, D'Angelo Russell, Jarrett Culver and ex-Celtic Evan Turner each did their part by scoring in double figures, but it wasn't enough to finish the job.

TEAM STATS

Minnesota actually had the edge in most categories, but their 3-point woes proved costly. They shot a putrid 19 percent from beyond the arc while the Celtics shot 41 percent. That's why Boston was able to storm back from an 11-point deficit and earn the W.

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 112, Timberwolves 110

The NBA 2K Celtics are on fire as that's now eight straight wins. Tune in Tuesday for their next matchup vs. the Miami Heat.