Explaining the Celtics' roster moves and what a 2-way deal means for Tacko Fall

Explaining the Celtics' roster moves and what a 2-way deal means for Tacko Fall

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics made a pair of roster moves Sunday to ensure that Tacko Fall remains a part of the organization beyond training camp.

The 7-foot-7 Fall, who had been with the team on a training camp invite since the summer, was signed to a 2-way slot after the Celtics signed fellow undrafted rookie Max Strus to a partially guaranteed NBA deal that now forces him to compete for Boston’s final available slot on its 15-man roster.

For the casual fan, the roster gymnastics might all be a bit confusing so let’s break this down a bit.

The Celtics signed Strus after June’s draft with a promise of one of the team’s two 2-way roster spots, which allows a player to spend time with both the parent club and the G-League affiliate. The other 2-way spot was earmarked for second-round pick Tremont Waters, one of Boston’s four draftees.

Boston originally signed Fall to an Exhibit 10 contract, which is essentially a training camp invite with a player in line to collect bonus money if they are waived and funneled to the team’s G-League affiliate.

What the Celtics probably didn’t expect was that Fall would become a viral sensation at Vegas Summer League in July, not only because of his sheer height but because of his raw potential. The Celtics were hoping that, given their glut of rookies, they might be able to sneak Fall through to the G-League as a final camp cut but it became evident that another team would likely pounce on him if waived.

As TackoMania swept the region, the Celtics essentially moved Sunday to ensure Fall would stick with the organization. Here’s how they did it:

1) Strus agreed to a partially guaranteed deal that essentially ensures he collects the money he would have earned as a two-way player regardless of whether he makes Boston’s 15-man roster. Strus had to know his 2-way spot was in jeopardy if the Celtics had no other means of keeping Fall and got some financial security should he be searching for a new employer at the end of camp. Strus, who first wowed Celtics brass with his shooting at pre-draft workouts, is still an intriguing prospect and will have the remainder of camp to state his case for that final roster spot.

2) Fall agreed to a 2-way deal that ensures that he cannot be poached by a rival. The contract type, introduced in the summer of 2017, allow teams to carry two players outside the 15-man NBA roster. Fall can now spend a maximum of 45 total days — or about a quarter of the season — with the parent club while spending the majority of his time developing in the G-League.

This is a win/win for Fall and the Celtics. TackoMania will be a monster draw for the Red Claws, an organization that the Celtics purchased this summer. Boston brass is headed to Portland on Tuesday for a preseason announcement and Sunday’s maneuvering allows them to champion Fall’s impending arrival as well. The Claws should have no problems selling tickets with Fall alone, let alone the other rookies that will likely visit on assignment in order to get heftier game reps during the season.

The Celtics still have an open spot on the 15-man roster — vacant since the team waived Guerschon Yabusele during summer league — and both Strus and summer league standout Javonte Green are here on partially guaranteed deals trying to stake their claim to that spot.

Boston does not have to fill that roster spot — potentially valuing the flexibility later in the season over carrying one of those players — but Green in particular has made a strong case for that spot with his play in Boston’s preseason slate. Strus’ strongest work has come behind closed doors at Boston’s practices were his shooting continues to distinguish him.

The Celtics have two other non-roster players in camp in Yante Maten and Kaiser Gates. Both are longshots for a final roster spot but can latch on with the Red Claws as affiliated players if they are final camp cuts.

TackoMania is now more secure than ever in New England. The Celtics will get every opportunity now to watch Fall develop and attempt to mold him into a NBA-caliber big. Brad Stevens can expect those “We Want Tacko!” chants throughout the season now.

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Brad Stevens on how Celtics home dominance establishes a goal set before this season

Brad Stevens on how Celtics home dominance establishes a goal set before this season

Brad Stevens was asked about the home winning streak* Boston teams have been on recently after the Celtics ran their own home streak to a legitimate nine (Sorry, Bruins, but an overtime loss, even in a shootout, is still a loss) with a 108-95 win over the Denver Nuggets Friday night.

*For the record, it's the Celtics 9-0, the Patriots 5-0, the Bruins 12 wins with one OT loss and four shootout losses and even the Red Sox 1-0 since Boston dropped its second-to-last home game at Fenway Park on Sept. 28. So, technically, the REGULATION, regular-season, home winning streak stands. 

There's also that little matter of home playoff losses for the C's and B's last spring. Those are as real as they come.


Still, with all this winning going on lately, the Boston teams must like playing at home, but Stevens pointed out how the Celtics' recent run of success helps accomplish a goal his team set coming off a season filled with bickering that ended with a second-round playoff exit. 

"We said all along with this group our No. 1 objective was to be a team that Boston liked," he said. "That's it. We'll, hopefully, be that."

Never losing in front of your paying customers goes a long way toward that goal.

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 season is bringing the best out of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum

Celtics season is bringing the best out of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum

BOSTON — While TD Garden lost its collective mind as his 3-pointer splashed through the twine, Jayson Tatum stared deep into a courtside TV camera and confidently skipped his way back towards midcourt. 

Jaylen Brown, who had lit the crowd’s fuse a possession earlier with a rim-rocking dunk, rushed over for an emphatic back bump to celebrate his team’s lopsided lead over the visiting Denver Nuggets.

In a way, it felt like the 2018 playoffs again. Tatum and Brown spearheading the Boston Celtics' offensive attack. The Jays. Ying and yang. Fire and ice. Peaches and Herb (you know, because they’re reunited and it feels so good).

OK, so Tatum and Brown were never really separated. But the construction of last year’s team didn’t quite allow their talents to ever be on full display. And neither player really put his best foot forward, either, given the conditions.

But Boston’s offseason roster overhaul, and the lessons learned last season, have provided Tatum and Brown a new opportunity to showcase their talents. They’ve both responded by playing at an All-Star-caliber level while stating a strong case as the best young duo in the NBA.

Tatum and Brown partnered up for 47 points on Friday night, helping Boston to a  108-95 triumph over a Nuggets team that has lingered near the top of the west for much of the first quarter of the season. Tatum and Brown combined for seven 3-pointers against the NBA’s top-ranked defense — two more than the Nuggets made as a team — and helped Boston really tear the game open in the second half.

This is what Celtics brass hoped was possible entering the season. In the aftermath of signing Kemba Walker this summer, it was fair to wonder if the team might be overstocked with perimeter players and, at that point, Brown’s future was a bit uncertain (before the extension he would eventually ink). The possibility of moving a wing player didn’t seem farfetched.

But the message from those inside Boston’s front office was consistent. The team wanted to see how Tatum and Brown performed together, especially outside the calamity of last season. The Celtics had hoped that the new roster makeup would open avenues for Tatum and Brown to thrive in ways that better resembled the 2018 playoffs than the 2018-19 regular season.

At the quarter pole of the new season, things couldn’t be going much better for the tandem. Tatum is averaging 21.2 points, 7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals over 34.3 minutes per game, all while putting up the best on/off splits on the team. Brown is up to 20 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.2 steals over 33.4 minutes per game.

Both players are right on the heels of Walker for the team lead in scoring. Only Gordon Hayward, sidelined for the past 13 games, has grabbed more rebounds than the duo this season. And there’s still the possibility that this tandem has just scratched the surface of their overall potential.

Regardless of how the cast around them looks, it’s becoming clear that the cornerstones of the Celtics team deep into the future centers on Tatum and Brown. And the players seem acutely aware of that fact.

"I think, definitely, the responsibility — a lot of it is on us, so we have to handle that kind of accordingly,” said Brown. "Just each and every night, I don’t think there’s no extra pressure that needs to be added to it. Just come out and play basketball, do what we’ve been doing. And I think everything will take care of itself.”

Brown knows his game complements Tatum’s well.

"I guess I’m more aggressive. JT’s kind of more laid-back,” said Brown. "I like to get to the basket and JT likes to step back and shoot jumpers. So a lot of times, we both mix it up a lot, sometimes I shoot 3s and sometimes he gets to the basket like today. But for the most part it’s kind of like polar opposites.”

However you want to compare and contrast, it’s working. And that’s what matters to Tatum.

"It's a lot of fun. When we're playing hard, playing together, making the right plays and he' doing things like that, it's hard not to get excited,” said Tatum. Later, he was asked about their friendship.

"It's grown a lot. I mean, we spend so much time together, obviously, over the course of 2 ½ seasons. We’ve been in some tough battles and we trust each other. I know what he's capable of and you know what he's going to bring to the table. You know what I'm going to bring to the table, especially in the toughest times. I’d go to war with him any day.”

It helps both of the Jays to have a veteran anchor like Walker alongside and empowering them to take the scoring baton when they have it going. Marcus Smart, who has seen the Jays progress, beams with pride discussing their developments.

"I think everybody sees the steps that they’ve taken towards becoming better basketball players, and it shows,” said Smart. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is quick to note that there’s still plenty of room for growth for both 23-year-old Brown and 21-year-old Tatum. "That story will be told down the road, right?” said Stevens. "Those guys are still getting better."

But the coach knows everybody in the organization is rooting for them to stay on this path towards tandem stardom. 

"Everybody wants them to do really well,” said Stevens. "I think the great part of the whole situation is all the players, all the coaches, all the front office, the whole city, we all want Jayson and Jaylen to do really well. It’s on us to all bring out the best in them and help them continue to grow through tough times or success, and they’re having a lot of success right now. 

“With that comes the different challenges of new defenses and more attention and how do you handle that, and those guys have shown themselves well thus far.”

Yup, Tatum just keeps skipping (“That's like my thing. I try not to get too excited, but that's my thing,” said Tatum) and Brown will happily exult after a loud slam, or simply blow kisses after a big 3.

"I guess we feed off each other,” said Brown. "Kind of different games, kind of opposite, but it makes sense. Like fire and ice.”

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.