A. Sherrod Blakely

Celtics Talk Podcast: Exclusive sit down with Enes Kanter

Celtics Talk Podcast: Exclusive sit down with Enes Kanter

New Celtics big man Enes Kanter sits down with Kyle Draper and Chris Forsberg. A. Sherrod Blakely joins Kyle and Chris to discuss Team USA's impact on the Celtics, Jaylen Brown's impressive FIBA performance and whether Kemba Walker will step up and be the leader the C's need.

1:03 - Enes Kanter interview

21:56 - Team USA's seventh-place finish

28:34 - Did the Celtics get all they could out of playing for Team USA?

32:30 - Are the Celtics more likely to give Jaylen Brown an extension after his FIBA performance?

37:15 - Will Kemba Walker be the alpha the Celtics need?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster?

The Boston Celtics open training camp on October 1 and we’re counting down the days by examining some of the top storylines for the 2019-20 season. 

Today’s topic: Does Tacko Fall make Boston’s roster out of camp?

In one of the NBA’s wildest summers, one that saw the Celtics swap out an All-Star point guard (Kyrie Irving) for another (Kemba Walker), no Boston player drew as much national attention as Fall, an undrafted camp invite.

Since the start of summer league in Las Vegas, Fall has been the most searched Celtics player on the internet. Try a Google query for “Celtics roster” and Fall is the first suggested player ahead of Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward. It’s been that way since July.

The 7-foot-7 Fall became a sensation not just because of his height but because of his raw abilities and the way he carried himself in the face of rising celebrity. Casual Celtics fans probably can't name a member of Boston’s new-look frontcourt following the departures of veterans Al Horford and Aron Baynes, but chances are they now know Fall.

After going undrafted in June, Fall signed what’s called an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics. That pact is essentially an invitation to work out with the team over the summer and attend training camp. Players that are waived at the end of camp and accept an assignment to the team’s G-League affiliate can earn up to $50,000 for being funneled to the parent team’s minor league squad.

Fall is going to get a chance to state his case for an NBA job at training camp. The Celtics have an open roster spot after waiving Guerschon Yabusele during summer league and the team is bringing in summer league standouts like Fall and Javonte Green to compete for that spot. The Celtics do not have to sign another player but that spot is there for someone to win if they prove themselves valuable enough.

Outside of the 15-man roster, the Celtics also have a pair of two-way player slots that allow young players to develop in the G-League with an ability to be called up to the parent club for part of the season. Boston has already committed those slots to Tremont Waters (a late-second round pick) and Max Strus, an undrafted rookie. But either of those players could be converted to the 15th roster spot — or waived — to open a potential two-way spot for Fall.

The most ideal path for the Celtics would be to funnel Fall to the G-League as an affiliated player if he’s waived after camp but doing such would require the team to expose him to waivers where a rival could snag him on a minimum-salary deal, particularly any team with an open two-way spot.

Outside interest might hinge on what Fall shows during camp, as it will be our first real glimpse of where he stands against NBA talent. He showed well in summer league but there is a great difference in defending other rookies versus trying to joust with NBA veterans like Enes Kanter (though Kanter offered praise of Fall after playing some 2-on-2 with him this summer).

So, does Fall make the final roster out of camp? This writer's belief has been that he can force the team’s hand with his play in camp. If he shows he’s already made strides this summer and that there’s a potential to develop into a serviceable big man, then the Celtics are going to have to think long and hard about finding a way to keep him around. It seems more likely that Boston would elevate, say, Waters to the 15th roster spot and ink Fall to a two-way deal, but is still gets him on the roster.

There is a business component to all this as well. Fall’s development is going to be of high interest, particularly at the minor league level. This summer, the Celtics purchased their G-League affiliate, and one way to guarantee a sold-out arena is to have someone like Fall to generate interest. It’s further incentive to keep him as a part of the program, but only if the team truly believes he has a potential NBA future ahead of him. Danny Ainge has said the team is invested in Fall’s development.

Would the Celtics be brazen enough to expose Fall to waivers in hopes of simply pushing him through to the G-League as an affiliated player? It seems like a risky move, even if Fall has a rough camp. But if someone else kicks down the door to that 15th spot, and if Waters and Strus hold firm to those two-way spots, it might be a dice roll the team must take.

Abby Chin: Two-way player

We’ve seen situations change quickly in the past when different opportunities pop up for the guys at the end of the bench. I don’t think the Celtics would mind getting a glimpse of Tacko at the NBA level. But he’s clearly not ready to be an every-night contributor.

 

Sherrod Blakely: Two-way player

Prepare for Tacko Tuesdays to become a mainstay of the Maine Red Claws this season. At 7-foot-7 and still learning the NBA game, Tacko has too much size, potential, and drawing power to let go. He's not quite good enough to hold down the 15th roster spot but slotting him into one of the two-way contracts — that means Boston would likely waive Max Strus — makes a lot of sense.

Max Lederman: Two-way player

I think they'll end up keeping his rights with a two-way deal. He's too fun to get rid of but probably not worth a spot on the 15-man roster. That said, he's a massive body to throw out there versus teams who deploy traditional bigs.

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: What is the most intriguing camp storyline?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: What is the most intriguing camp storyline?

The Boston Celtics will huddle two weeks from today for Media Day and the unofficial start of the 2019-20 season. The next day, they’ll launch into two-a-day sessions and the start of training camp at the Auerbach Center. Basketball is just about back.

Not that it ever left. The NBA experienced maybe its wildest summer in league history as stars relocated all over the map. The late summer/early fall doldrums were filled by the FIBA World Cup and Team USA’s roster featured four of Boston’s primary rotation players, including newly signed All-Star Kemba Walker.

Still, when camp opens for the Celtics, it’ll have been nearly five months since their head-slapping 2018-19 campaign ended unceremoniously with the Milwaukee Bucks rattling off four straight wins in the conference semifinals. A lot has changed with the departures of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris. The Celtics are hoping that the “Plan A” additions of Walker and Enes Kanter can help them remain competitive in a wide-open East.

But there’s no shortage of questions to be answered about this team.

So today we’re unveiling our Countdown to Camp series, a two-week march to Media Day in which some of NBC Sports Boston’s top hoops voices will join me in trying to set the table for the new season.

Today’s topic: What will be the most intriguing storyline at training camp?

This writer’s choice: How does Gordon Hayward look after a summer of working out in Boston, and what sort of expectations will emerge as he prepares for a season now two years removed from that gruesome ankle injury in Cleveland.

Maybe it’s because much of Boston’s other key players have been on an international stage for the past month while Hayward has been grinding away back home that makes Hayward’s progress so intriguing. Every time a Celtics teammate, coach, or front-office figure has talked to reporters this offseason, the conversation has always included some form of gushing about Hayward and the upcoming season.

Heck, that hype train left the station back in early June when, just a few weeks removed from Boston’s playoff exit, Danny Ainge detailed Hayward’s initial workout schedule and how he was “anticipating great things from Gordon this season.” 

Along the way, we learned Hayward was selling his San Diego residence an had spent nearly his entire summer in Boston working out with the coaches and trainers at the team’s facility. Just last week, Celtics coach Brad Stevens further elevated the Hayward intrigue level by saying that Hayward has put himself in position for a “great” season with his offseason workouts while discussing Hayward’s summer on Jeff Goodman’s podcast.

Later in this series, we’ll get into what exactly type of season Hayward might have and how his role might change now after the departure of the two All-Stars he used to share the locker room with. Boston’s roster got incredibly young this offseason and it’s clear that 29-year-olds Walker and Hayward will be in the leadership spotlight.

But the start of camp will allow us to set our expectations gauge for Hayward. He had some very encouraging moments at the end of the 2018-19 season, particularly in Boston’s first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers. Alas, his struggles against Milwaukee confirmed that he was still searching for his pre-injury consistency and it tempered expectations entering the offseason.

In a way, it feels like some have forgotten just how good Hayward was before the injury and how his all-around talents made him a top-25-caliber player in the league. Hayward might never quite get back to that level but those glimpses at the end of last season suggest he can really impact winning. 

A new-look roster, and restored confidence, might give him a chance to accentuate his talents again this season. The Celtics are loaded with wing depth and must figure out how all those versatile pieces fit together but if Hayward gets back to the player he was, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make leaps, that would be Boston’s most direct path to being a true contender.

So if we get a glimpse of 5-on-5 work to close out one of the team’s early sessions of camp, these eyes will be directly on Hayward.

Here’s what others in our panel will be keeping an eye on:

Abby Chin: The adjustment of — and to — Kemba Walker

This covers multiple angles, not the least of which, I assume, will be an improved vibe in the locker room. There’s a big adjustment for Walker with a new team, new environment, and leaving the only NBA home he’s ever known. That can’t be understated. 

Al Horford said it took him the better part of a year to really get comfortable after he made the move from Atlanta, and that surprised him. It’s all-encompassing for every area of your life: new house, new facility, new coaching staff and trainers. Even just figuring out the best way to get to TD Garden to avoid traffic. Everything is different. 

And, of course, the adjustment on the court for Walker, and for his new teammates in playing with Walker. This is the most talented group of guys Walker has ever played alongside during an NBA season. How does he balance his 1-on-1, pick-and-roll heavy style with getting others involved? Irving never really figured that out. How effectively is Walker able to pick his spots? His teammates have to adjust to a new floor general as well. A few got a head start with Team USA but it’s still going to take time to gel.

Sherrod Blakely: The wing position

Jaylen Brown is in a contract year. Jayson Tatum will look to take a significant leap forward.  Gordon Hayward's looking to get back to the player he was prior to coming to Boston. Keeping all three happy this year? Good luck with that Brad Stevens.

 

Max Lederman: How will Robert Williams look?

TimeLord's per-36 stats were historic last season. Can he come close to that production with extended run? Can he be a playable rotation big for the Celtics to start the season, or will he need more time to develop? Basically I want to know if he can play — and not be a net negative — on opening night versus the Joel Embiid/Al Horford frontline of the 76ers.

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