There was 9:14 to play in the fourth quarter when Tacko Fall checked in for his first action as a member of the Celtics on Sunday in the team’s first preseason game. Within 21 seconds, he had his first rebound and first points—a follow-up dunk off a miss by Tremont Waters. Within 57 seconds, he had his first blocked shot.
Amid the frenzy that ensued at the TD Garden—a crowd roaring as though it were a playoff game, two fellows dressed as tacos bouncing hysterically, oversized men dancing in the aisles, Tommy Heinsohn giving his full-throated approval—it was clear something was going on. Tacko-Mania had materialized.
He finished with five points, three rebounds and two blocks in eight minutes.
It’s difficult to recall an undrafted NBA rookie on an unguaranteed contract arriving with as much anticipation and excitement as Fall. But Sunday evening’s game against Charlotte showed just how unusual Fall is among undrafted rookies.
Not many undrafted rookies, of course, come into the NBA at 7-5 and weighing 290 pounds, having averaged 1.4 blocks in 12.6 minutes in Summer League after manning the middle for four years at Central Florida. It was a mild shock back in June when Fall was not picked after a solid four-season career with UCF, with averages of 10.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots.
Speaking of blocked shots:
Fall is, no doubt, raw. But it bears repeating: He is 7-5. That’s how his official NBA measurement came back but Fall disputed that on media day. He was asked the last time he measured at 7-5. “When I was in high school,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it exact.”
Also, he is fairly athletic and spent the summer in Boston so he could work with the team’s coaches. “I feel like I have gotten a lot better, especially understanding the game and the way they play in the NBA,” he said. “The coaches have done a great job of helping me with that.”
Celtics Face a Tough Call on Keeping Tacko Fall
The Celtics added Fall on an Exhibit 10 contract after the draft. That would allow the team to give him a bonus and have him play for the Celtics’ G-League affiliate in Maine, which seemed to be the plan until the summer marched on and other teams began registering their interest in Fall’s future.
If the Celtics try to keep him on an Exhibit 10 deal, Fall still will have the right to sign with another NBA team and Boston would lose him. The Celtics don’t want that. But giving Fall a roster spot means carrying four centers—Enes Kanter, Robert Williams, Vincent Poirier and Fall—a tough ask for a team that wants to play a lot of small-ball.
But Celtics coach Brad Stevens is a fan of Fall and there is confidence among Fall’s camp that Boston will keep him on board, even as a developmental project who might spend most of the year in Maine anyway. It wasn’t Boston’s plan, but Fall may have shown himself to be too intriguing a prospect to let walk away.
That’s good news for the legion of fans Fall has made in Boston in just a few short months. Especially the guys in the taco costumes.