Tacko Fall rises to the occasion
BOSTON -- Before the world shut down as we known it because of the coronavirus, back when a trip to Portland, Maine didn’t feel like you were trying to plan a trip to Pluto or Mars – you know, like last year - I had a chance to spend some time with Tacko Fall in the city which used to be his home away from home.
From the minute he stepped into the gym, he was the center of attention.
Such is life when your mere presence – forget about what you do on the court – is for many a form of entertainment.
But as fans clamored to get as close as they could to the gentle-spirited giant, Tacko would smile, soak in the adulation and shift his focus toward doing what he came to do – playing basketball.
However, those trips to Portland, Maine will not be this year with the Red Claws opting out this season to be among the G-League teams that will play at one site in Orlando, Fla.
“While we share in our fans’ disappointment that we will not be having a season in Maine this year, we will continue to be active off the court and in our Maine communities,” said the Red Claws in a statement released on Friday. “We are grateful to have the best fans and partners in the NBA G League and are excited to continue building towards the future.”
That means the only time you will see Tacko Fall in action, is with the Celtics – something we have seen very little of this season.
That raises the all-too-predictable questions that always come up when talking about Tacko.
Why doesn’t he play more?
Is he any good?
Will he be ready to play when called upon?
Tacko Fall has embraced the reality that his opportunities to play won’t be nearly as bountiful as he wants.
That means he’s no different than 99 percent of the players in the NBA, right?
The only thing Tacko can control, is being ready when his opportunity to play presents itself.
No Robert Williams III.
No Grant Williams.
No Tristan Thompson.
All three of Boston’s big men were out due to health protocols.
Opportunity … meet Tacko.
And to his credit, Tacko didn’t waste this rare chance to play in helping Boston defeat Washington, 116-107.
Tacko had a respectable line off the bench with four points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
More than the numbers, Tacko accomplished something that few fully understand means the world to him – respect as a player.
It was the kind of play that did more than send a message to Westbrook and the Wizards about the perils of entering the paint when Tacko is around.
For Tacko and his teammates, it was another confidence booster for a player who doesn’t get many opportunities on the floor outside of practice.
“He totally changed the game,” said Boston’s Payton Pritchard. “He stayed ready.”
Jaylen Brown echoed similar sentiments when describing Tacko’s play.
“Tacko’s gotten better since the first day he got here. His body has improved, timing has improved.
He’s ready as you seen today,” Brown said. “He’s only going to get better.”
And that improvement from the perspective of his teammates, is critical.
Because as much as coaches guide and direct who is on the floor, you won’t be out there long if your teammates don’t believe in you enough to do your job.
Tacko’s teammates have a tremendous amount of faith in him doing what’s needed from him when he enters the game, and that’s protect the rim and defend.
It’s easy to dismiss what he did as it being just one game.
But that’s kind of the point.
It was one game, a game that Tacko can’t take for granted because he knows opportunities will be few and far between unless he makes the most of these moments.
He did that on Friday and he’ll likely get another shot or two before the fellas ahead of him on the depth chart return and resume their place ahead of him in the playing pecking order.
But that’s OK.
Because Tacko has been playing the game of basketball long enough to know that his opportunity to play will come sooner or later.
When it comes doesn’t matter.
It’s what he does with the chance to play that will best ensure that these random meetings he has with opportunity, aren’t so random.