WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes over the last two seasons acted as the backbone of the Detroit Pistons. The two big men developed the reputation of being gritty, tough instigators – the type that no opponent enjoys facing off against.
This coming season, that backbone will have a new home – Boston.
The Celtics acquired the tandem in two separate acquisitions over the last two weeks. Morris came aboard July 7 when the Pistons dealt him to Boston in exchange for Avery Bradley and a 2019 second-round pick. Baynes, who opted out of the final year of his contract with Detroit, rejoined Morris Wednesday afternoon as he signed a deal with the C’s.
Morris, a 6-foot-9, six-year veteran, spent the last two seasons starting primarily at the 3 for the Pistons. He averaged 14.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game during that span, all while shooting 34.5 percent from 3-point range.
Baynes during that time served as the backup for All-Star center Andre Drummond. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Australian is a physical body-banger who averaged 5.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG during his two seasons in Detroit. His playing time was limited during those two campaigns (15.4 minutes per game), but he paired well with Morris, as the duo brought a nightmarish level of tenacity when they were on the court together.
“I’m excited to play with Marcus again,” Baynes told the Boston media Wednesday afternoon during an introductory press conference at the team’s training facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. “The guy is a professional both on and off the court, he’s got a great work ethic and I love the way he plays. He brings toughness and I’ve always had fun playing with him.
“He played with our second unit a lot in Detroit and we always did good things when we were together on the court, so I’m excited that he’s here as well, and we look forward to bringing some extra toughness combined with us.”
Morris held a conference call following Baynes’ presser and delivered similar praise for his teammate.
“AB’s always been one of those guys who works extremely hard and gets the job done,” Morris said as he spoke to the Boston media for the first time since he was traded. “You can always count on him. He’s a tough guy because he competes at the highest level. Every day since I’ve been in Detroit with him, he came and he brought it. That’s the type of guy you want to play with and not against, so I’m happy he’s on our team. I think he’s going to be a big, major piece for us.”
Baynes, who won an NBA title with San Antonio in 2014, fills a major rebounding void for Boston. He’s averaged 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes during his career and is the definition of a true center.
His playing time was inconsistent in Detroit, however, as he often sat in the shadow of Drummond. He views Boston as a place that could give him a fresh opportunity to earn more of a role.
“I think being in the NBA, everyone always wants to play more,” said the 30-year-old big man. “I think if you don’t want to play more then you’re not in the right spot, so I’m excited for the opportunity and hopefully I can go out there and own some minutes.”
Morris has the opportunity to earn some major minutes in Boston because his versatility will allow Brad Stevens to slot him into multiple roles.
“I see myself fitting in anywhere coach wants to put me,” said the 27-year-old. “I’m one of those guys that’s interchangeable from the 2 to the 4, so I think it’s easy to just plug me in anywhere.”
Morris is also looking forward to adding to the Celtics’ rivalry with the Washington Wizards. He was a regular attendant of the teams’ second-round series, as he rooted on his twin brother Markieff who is a starter for the Wizards. Now he’s looking forward to being on the other side of the rivalry.
“It’s going to be funny me being in Boston,” Morris admitted, “but at the same time, I’m a professional, my brother is a professional, and we’re just going to be competing.
“It’s definitely going to be tough,” he added. “There’s definitely going to be trash talking, but at the end of the day I’m a Boston Celtic, so I want to win.”
Morris already knows all about what it means to be a Boston Celtic, considering the fact that Paul Pierce was his favorite player growing up. He spoke to Pierce shortly after the trade and said the conversation hyped him up for the upcoming season.
“This is the first time in my career where I can actually say that I have the opportunity to get to the finals, an opportunity to compete for a championship,” said Morris. “I’m excited and I think that Boston fans are going to really enjoy what I bring to the game. And I think I can fit right in with these guys.”
Morris and Baynes should both fit right into the Celtics’ culture with their toughness and their winning attitudes. They’ll add two strong vertebrae to what is already a sturdy backbone in Boston.