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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Gordon Hayward eyes potential Celtics return Monday night vs. Cavaliers

Gordon Hayward eyes potential Celtics return Monday night vs. Cavaliers

BOSTON — Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said the fractured bone in his left hand has completely healed and acknowledged the possibility that he could return to action on Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Bone has healed, probably stronger than my right hand. There’s a plate in there with screws. The bone is good,” Hayward said Sunday after going through the team’s offday practice. Boston did not engage in any live 5-on-5 action but Hayward sounded open to returning Monday.

"Tomorrow’s a possibility,” he said. "See how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround, see how it goes.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’d let the training staff determine when Hayward was ready to return but also didn’t rule out Monday and noted, “he’s coming back sooner than later.”

The Celtics originally announced a 6-week return-to-action timeline for Hayward after he underwent surgery to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand on November 11. Hayward suffered the injury running into LaMarcus Aldridge on Nov. 9.

Hayward has ramped up activity over the past week and acknowledged that an earlier return seemed possibly recently.

"I mean you try to take it day-by-day. I think as it’s steadily improving and can do more and more, you start to think coming back a little bit earlier,” said Hayward. "I think you set the timeline a little bit later than what you’re hoping for just so that [the media] and everyone else isn’t like — if you’re late like, what’s the deal?”

Hayward stressed that, if the bone is fully healed, he’s at no real risk for reinjury without taking another shot.

"I can’t do anything that’s going to hurt it. I’m going to have to get hit equally as hard, probably more than last time, because I have the metal in my hand now,” said Hayward. "So the bone is healed. I can’t hurt it worse. It’s almost like playing through the pain, the tissues that I have in my hand, those are a lot slower to recover, so those are going to be sore a little bit. Motion and strength is going to take a little while to get back; it’s whether or not you can play through that and still be effective. That’s kind of what we’re determining but the bone is healed.”

Hayward said he does not expect to have the hardware in his hand removed unless it bothers him further down the road. He admitted he’s been cautious with the hand as he ramps up contact activities but doesn’t expect that to linger.

"It’s definitely something I’m still guarding and it’s going to be like that for a little while,” said Hayward. "That’s only natural. But part of that is getting out there and playing and getting over it mentally. I have gotten a hit [by an assistant coach], it reacted normally to that. The bone has healed and that’s the important part.”

A six-week return had Hayward looking at closer to a Christmas return. The Celtics play three games in four nights starting with Monday’s visit from the Cavaliers.

Boston is 9-4 without Hayward.

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.

Bryce Brown hits franchise 3's record in Red Claws loss

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Bryce Brown hits franchise 3's record in Red Claws loss

The Maine Red Claws were in action at home at the Portland Expo Center on Saturday night hosting the Delaware Blue Coats, taking a 128-123 loss to fall to 7-4 and fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Tacko Fall wasn’t in action, but Bryce Brown was simply furious, leading all scorers with 43 points 15 of 17 from the floor overall and a franchise single-game record 11 of 11 three-pointers. Tremont Waters was terrific, too, with 18 points and 11 assists.



Brown, an undrafted free agent who helped lead Auburn to its first Final Four appearance last spring, was simply unconscious for the Claws. He shot a perfect 11 of 11 from three-point range to give him an absurd effective field goal percentage of 1.2 for the game.


Waters, the Connecticut native, was crafty in his distribution, with just four turnovers to go with his 11 assists.

Yante Maten (18 points), Vincent Poirier (18) and Justin Bibbs (10) also scored in double-figures for the Red Claws.


The Red Claws return to action Friday in Des Moines, Iowa to face the Iowa Wolves, with tipoff at 8 p.m. ET.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.