Celtics

Ex-coach Johnny Dawkins on Tacko Fall: 'His room for growth is astronomical'

Ex-coach Johnny Dawkins on Tacko Fall: 'His room for growth is astronomical'

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Johnny Dawkins spent three years at the University of Central Florida as Tacko Fall’s head coach with Fall’s play being a key to the team’s recent success. 

But as good a college player as Fall was, Dawkins sees his growth curve as a basketball player continuing to grow now that he’s on the cusp of being an NBA player. 

Dawkins was in attendance at the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center on Friday when Fall (signed by the Celtics to an Exhibit 10 contracts which guarantees he’ll be in training camp but very little beyond that opportunity) and the Boston Celtics defeated the Magic 100-75. 

Dawkins spent some time talking with NBC Sports’ Abby Chin about - what else? - Tacko Fall. 

“He (Fall) made tremendous progress for us,” Dawkins told Chin. “His best basketball is still ahead of him. Like I’ve always said, when you start that late, his room for growth is astronomical. I’m so excited because I think he has a great opportunity to continue to that.”

Fall came to the United States from Senegal when he was 16 which was around the time the now-23-year-old Fall began playing basketball. 

Standing 7-foot-7, his size alone makes him a standout wherever he goes. 

But more than his play, Dawkins was impressed even more by Fall the person. 

“He’s a humble young man,” Dawkins said before adding, “He’s been in this situation a long time with his size. He’s a people person, he’s very friendly. Everyone that meets him becomes a fan of his, because they realize just how good a person he is and what he brings to the game of basketball but also what he brings off the court as well.”

So it was a surprise to no one to hear the intermittent cheering by the Orlando Magic (and presumably UCF) fan base wanting to see for Fall play.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the fans longing for Tacko to play intensified with each passing minute. 

At one point, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens started walking down the bench which led to fans anticipating he was going to substitute Fall into the game. 

Instead, he put Tremont Waters in and soon after Waters we saw Vincent Poirier play which led to a chorus of boos directed at Stevens. 

It was clear that there were moments when the cheering from fans to put Fall in the game, made him uncomfortable. 

“I think it’s fun that everybody is excited about it, but I’m sure it’s not comfortable for him you know,” Stevens said. “This is why I say all the time how impressed I am with him because he just handles everything with a smile and grace.”

Stevens added, “I actually told him at the six or seven-minute time-out, I said, “Hey, if it gets to five minutes and you haven’t gone in yet, just come and just throw your stuff down at my face and just walk in and then we’ll all play along. We didn’t get to that. That would have been good. He’s really getting better as a basketball player; not as good an actor yet.”

And for Fall to continue to improve as a player, Dawkins has a few things in mind to make that happen. 

“Tacko needs to continue doing what he’s doing, and that’s go out there and know who he is,” Dawkins said. “He’s a traditional big man. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s a rim-protector and he’s a high percentage finisher around the basket. If he sticks to those things … he can play for a long time in this league.” 

Highlights: Celtics roll in laugher vs. Magic>>>

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Celtics' Romeo Langford returns to Indiana for first time as NBA player

Celtics' Romeo Langford returns to Indiana for first time as NBA player

INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries and opportunity have kept Romeo Langford on the sidelines more than he would have liked in this, his rookie season. 

But that won’t stop the folks from his hometown of New Albany, Indiana, from making the two-hour trek to Wednesday night’s game to support him and the Boston Celtics in what’s being billed as New Albany Night at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Wednesday will be the first time Langford, selected by Boston with the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft, will return to the Hoosier State as a Celtic.

“It’ll be good, just to be back. I haven’t been back home in a while,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston, adding that the last time he was home was sometime in August. “It’s been a while. That first time going back, it’s going to be a good, special time. It’ll be nice for people who saw me grow up, to see me now in an NBA uniform.”

Langford was a four-year starter at New Albany High School and finished his prep career as one of the state’s most decorated basketball players ever. 

He took his talents to nearby Indiana University, where he played for one season before entering last June’s NBA draft.

There are many in the New Albany community eager to see one of their own come back.  

“We are excited to partner with the Pacers to provide our fans and community with an opportunity to celebrate Romeo’s return to Indiana,” New Albany Athletic Director B.J. McAlister said in a statement. “Our city’s support of Romeo over his high school and college careers was outstanding, and now everyone will get a chance to cheer him on in his first NBA game in our state.

Langford is with the Celtics but won’t see any action against the Pacers as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

“It is frustrating, but you just have to deal with it, try to get better and get back out there as soon as you can,” said Langford, referring to the series of injuries he has had thus far. “That’s all I really can do.”

Langford said he is feeling a lot better and thinks it’s just a matter of days before he’s officially cleared to resume full basketball activities.

Whether he plays or not, there’s very little that can damper Langford’s spirits on the eve of his first homecoming as an NBA player. 

“Like I said, it’ll be good to see a lot of people who helped me get to where I am now, at the game,” Langford said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics eye a potential return from Marcus Smart (eye infection) vs. Pacers

Celtics eye a potential return from Marcus Smart (eye infection) vs. Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Yes, there is a chance that the Boston Celtics will have their defensive anchor back in the mix for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. 

Marcus Smart, who did not play in Boston’s 110-88 victory over Cleveland due to an eye infection, made the trip to Indiana with the team but is still considered questionable to play. 

If the Celtics’ defensive stalwart is indeed healthy enough to play, it’ll be interesting to see whether he comes off the bench or rejoins the starting lineup.

Smart began the season coming off the bench while playing starter-like minutes. 

Once Gordon Hayward went down with a fourth metacarpal fracture of his left hand on Nov. 9, Smart was back in the starting lineup and, by and large, did a solid job. 

Will head coach Brad Stevens bring Smart off the bench like he did to start the season, or will he go with more of a mix-and-match kind of lineup that has one of their wings — Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Hayward — slide over to being a big-time, difference-making reserve?

No matter how they decide to use Smart, you can rest assured that he will make an impact of some kind. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.