Celtics

Tacko Fall reflects on development as a basketball player: 'I was terrible'

Tacko Fall reflects on development as a basketball player: 'I was terrible'

Tacko Fall has become one of the city of Boston's hottest names in recent weeks. Since signing with the Boston Celtics as an undrafted free agent out of UCF, the 7-foot-7 center he has become a fan-favorite and has done quite a bit to insert himself into the battle for a spot on the Celtics' roster.

But things weren't always easy for Fall. When he first came over to the United States from Senegal during his high school days, he was just learning how to play the sport. And by his own admission at the Basketball Hall of Fame's 60 Days of Summer program, he wasn't very good.

"I was terrible," Fall said. "I was terrible when I had first started. But obviously, when you start a new sport, there is going to be a learning curve. That doesn't mean you're bad, it just means you need to learn how to play the game. So, I went through that, but I just put my head down and knew I was on a mission over here. And thankfully, I had a lot of people helping me with my game mentally and I just never gave up. I just kept pushing."

Fall's hard work paid off, as he was able to develop into a solid high school player and was heavily recruited by colleges because of his size and performance. He would eventually go on to play at UCF and spend four years at the school.

Fall credited his development to having a chance to learn from Hakeem Olajuwon, who helped to mentor Fall during his early days in Texas, and the UCF coaching staff. But additionally, he credited another unlikely source for helping him in basketball. And that was soccer, a sport that he had played frequently while growing up in Senegal. 

"What soccer does is it really helps you with your footwork," Fall said. "That's the main thing. And as you may have seen, a lot of guys that played soccer before and made the transition to basketball really have a different type of footwork and really can move pretty well. So, I feel like that's what soccer really helped me with."

And Fall's footwork was one of the things that he wanted to show off during his time in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Despite Fall's great senior season at UCF -- he averaged 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game in 2018-19 -- he went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was scooped up by the Boston Celtics soon after the draft and was ready to prove himself in the summer league.

In Vegas, Fall would become one of the biggest stars because of his ability to make easy standing dunks and impact shots on the defensive end. The fan-favorite averaged 7.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in just over 12 minutes per game. And when he reflected on his experience there, he was very grateful for the fan support he received early in his NBA career. 

"I’m thankful," Fall said of the support he received during the summer league. "I feel really blessed to be in the position that I am. I didn’t expect what happened in Vegas, but whenever I stepped on the court and looked around and I saw all these people cheering for me — like I said, where I came from — it really inspired me to keep pushing. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it and it doesn’t go unnoticed."

The next step in Fall's inspirational story will be fighting for a spot on the Celtics roster. He will have a chance to compete for one of 15 roster spots and two two-way contracts over the course of the Celtics' training camp and the NBA preseason.

But it's certainly safe to say that fans will be rooting for him in that pursuit.

BLAKELY: Must-see Celtics game during the 2019-20 NBA season>>>

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Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Jaylen Brown didn't make the All-Star team this year, and you likely won't find him on a 2020 All-NBA squad.

But if you ask Kendrick Perkins, the voters should re-evaluate their choices.

After Brown dropped 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and played impressive defense against Raptors star Pascal Siakam in the Boston Celtics' 122-100 dismantling of Toronto on Friday night, Perkins went on NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics Postgame Live" to drop a spicy take.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Sunday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

"Jaylen Brown, to me, is the best all-around shooting guard in the league," Perkins said. "Pure point blank."

Brown is enjoying a career season, averaging 20.6 points on 48.8 percent shooting with 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while continuing to play elite defense. The 23-year-old has been particularly hot of late, scoring 20 or more points in nine of Boston's last 10 games.

But is Perkins saying Brown is the best shooting guard in the NBA -- better than All-Stars like Bradley Beal and Devin Booker, not to mention MVP finalist James Harden?

Here's Perk's explanation:

He don't search for shots. He's not a high-volume scorer. But when you look up at the end of the night, he's got his 20 points on over 50 percent shooting. And he locks up the best guy every single night. You can't find that. And his playmaking is underrated. He's got a very high (basketball) IQ.

There are better scorers at the position -- including Harden, the NBA's most prolific scorer -- but you could argue Brown has become one of the league's strongest two-way shooting guards.

And Perkins very much would like to make that argument.

Perkins might take heat for declaring Brown the cream of the shooting guard crop, but his bold take shouldn't distract from the fact that the fourth-year wing is becoming an elite NBA player before our eyes.

Report: 76ers star Ben Simmons to leave NBA bubble for knee surgery

Report: 76ers star Ben Simmons to leave NBA bubble for knee surgery

Is the Philadelphia 76ers' worst-case scenario playing out?

All-Star guard Ben Simmons will leave the NBA bubble to undergo surgery on his left knee, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Saturday.

The procedure will "remove a loose body" from Simmons' knee, per Charania. The timetable for his recovery is unclear, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski suggested he'll at least miss the first round or two of the NBA playoffs.

Simmons injured his knee Wednesday during Philly's win over the Washington Wizards and was diagnosed with a subluxation of his left patella, or kneecap.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Sunday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

His injury obviously has massive implications for the Sixers and the rest of the Eastern Conference -- particularly the Boston Celtics, who would match up with Philly in the first round if the season ended today.

Boston currently is the No. 3 seed in the East, while the Sixers are the No. 6 seed but have the same record as the No. 5 Indiana Pacers with four seeding games remaining.

Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, eight assists and a league-high 2.1 steals for Philly and is the team's best player outside big man Joel Embiid. His absence changes the entire dynamic of Philly's offense and makes the Sixers a much less formidable playoff opponent.