By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics fans are known to get a little too overzealous when it comes to their team’s young players. But just about everyone checking out the NBA Summer League has a craving for more Tacko.
It’s hard not to be amazed by Tacko Fall, if for nothing other than the 23-year-old’s mighty stature. He stands at 7-foot-6 and owns an 8-foot wingspan. He can simply reach up to pluck rebounds out of the air and can dunk on his tiptoes. It’s fascinating to watch the big man in action, because opposing players have no shot at outreaching Boston’s young giant.
It also helps that he’s playing well on the floor. Fall had another impressive summer performance Monday night in Vegas, hitting all five of his shots (and both free throws) for 12 points, a pair of rebounds and a blocked shot in 11 minutes of action during Boston’s 89-72 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That dunk off a lob by fellow rookie Tremont Waters capped off a late 18-0 Boston run to seal the Celtics’ victory. Monday’s performance was a solid follow-up to Fall’s six-point, four-rebound showing Saturday night in his Summer League debut, and hoop heads are absolutely loving it.
Fans inside the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas gave Fall an ovation for just about everything. Whenever he got off the bench and made his way to the scorer’s table, there was an ovation. They grew giddy whenever the ball got close to Fall, and ovations erupted whenever he causally dunked or blocked a shot. There were boos when he was taken out, and a loud “We Want Tacko!” chant that filled the air in the third quarter. There will be even more cheers and chants for Tacko Tuesday night when the 2-0 Celtics take on the Denver Nuggets as Fall Fever builds. With top overall pick Zion Williamson sitting out New Orleans’ summer slate with a knee injury, he’s quickly become the most exciting player in the Summer League. Heck, even Lakers fans are cheering for him.
Fall has lived up to the hype in his small servings. He’s been solid on both ends of the floor thanks to his ridiculous wingspan, grabbing boards to create second-chance opportunities and changing shots in the paint. He’s run the floor well for a 7-foot-6 string bean. And he’s taking this newfound stardom in stride.
“It’s been a great experience so far, I feel blessed,” Fall said after Monday’s win, via The Boston Globe. “Every game I feel like I have something to prove, that I can play in the NBA. That’s where my mind is at. Ever since I got to Boston, they really try to keep me up to speed with everything and here being able to compete with some of these guys is a confidence boost.”
But Fall has an uphill battle to make the Celtics roster when the regular season rolls around. Traditional big men like Fall are no longer a commodity in the NBA, and chances are he’ll get a dose of reality if he gets the chance to play against actual NBA players. There’s also a bit of a numbers crunch with 17 players already on the Boston roster.
After going undrafted out of UCF last month, Fall signed an Exhibit 10 contract, which is a non-guaranteed deal for one-year that would pay him the league minimum if he makes the team. He could earn a bonus of up to $50,000 if he starts the year in the G League with the Maine Red Claws, or he could get a two-way deal that would allow him to bounce between Maine and Boston. Chances are most of Tacko’s time will be spent in a Red Claws uniform next season.
But if his impressive play in the summer league continues and he carries it into training camp, the Celtics may have no other choice but to find a way to fit in their 7-foot-6 fan favorite.