WALTHAM, Mass. – Every NBA team needs a protector. Not just one that protects the rim, but also one that protects his teammates.
For the Boston Celtics, their protector arrived Thursday morning in the form of Marcus Morris.
Boston acquired the veteran forward this summer from Detroit in exchange for Avery Bradley and a future second-round draft pick. Morris was unable to join the team last week during training camp because he and his twin brother, Markieff of the Washington Wizards, were standing trial in Phoenix, facing felony assault charges.
The Morris’ were acquitted of all all charges Tuesday night, and Marcus immediately flew to Boston to join his new squad. He went through his first practice with the Celtics Thursday morning and soon after was welcomed by Boston media members.
The last few weeks were “very difficult,” Morris recounted. He wishes he could’ve been present during training camp so he could’ve begun the bonding process with the rest of his teammates, but he’s happy to be with them now, and he’s ready to get to work.
“I love playing basketball,” said Morris. “And for me, coming to a new place and not being able to be there and be one of the first guys there to just learn everybody is really tough.
“But it’s behind me,” he added. “I’m ready to get going. I’m ready to play.”
It would have been a lot more difficult for Morris to feel ready if it weren’t for the support of Boston’s basketball operations staff. Basketball operations assistants Alex Barlow and Jake Eastman were assigned to work with Morris over the last few weeks, as they brought him up to speed on Boston’s system.
Being a six-year NBA veteran, Morris had no trouble picking things up quickly.
“I was getting up by 6:30 (a.m.), running over the offense multiple days and just getting acclimated with the offense and the defensive schemes,” said Morris, who has logged career averages of 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
It was clear to Stevens Thursday morning that Morris had been studying.
“He was good,” said Stevens. “You can tell he’s a guy that’s played in the league a long time and has really been coached well at every level. We’ve tried to keep him as up to speed as we could over the last 10 days or so, and so I thought he transitioned pretty smoothly.”
Morris should bring great versatility to the team, as he can play interchangeably at the 3 and 4. Offensively, he’s a strong perimeter shooter who can also put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim. On the defensive end, he can guard wings on the perimeter, but is also capable of banging bodies with bigs in the post.
“I feel like I could fit in anywhere,” Morris said. “I’m a guy that you could put in different positions. I’ve played the 4; I played the 3 for the last two years (in Detroit). So I think it will be easy.”
Aside from his versatility, Morris’ claim to fame comes in the toughness department. He, along with his twin brother, are both known as two of the league’s most fearless instigators. It’s exactly the type of role he plans to play in Boston, and it’s exactly what his new teammates expect out of him.
“Competing against these guys over the years, I think they know what I can do,” Morris said of his Celtics teammates. “I’ve gotta be the tough guy on the team. I’ve gotta be the protector. [If] guys [are] knocking my guys down, I can’t have that. It’s going to be my role to be the bully, and I’m going to accept it.”
Morris is the type of player who you hate to play against, but you love to have on your team. Jaylen Brown can attest to that after going up against the gritty swingman a few times last season.
“I’m glad he’s with us,” said the 20-year-old, sophomore wing. “He’s tough, plays the game the right way and can score the ball. I like his energy.”
This week will be critical for Morris as he acclimates himself with his new teammates. His first big test will come Friday night when he suits up with the C’s to take on the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I’m happy to get started with the players and it’s a privilege to be a Boston Celtic,” said Morris. “I’m excited to get going. Excited to see how far we can take this.”