Celtics

Jurors begin deliberations in Morris twins assault trial

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Jurors begin deliberations in Morris twins assault trial

PHOENIX - Defense attorneys told a jury Monday that the aggravated assault case involving NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris in the 2015 beating of a former acquaintance is inexcusably and unforgivably tainted.

Prosecutor Thomas Bailey argued the Morris brothers had a motive to attack the victim and said the defendants "acted like high school bullies on a playground."

Jurors began deliberating the case after hearing remaining closing arguments from Bailey and attorneys representing Markieff Morris and the final defendant, Gerald Bowman.

The brothers are accused of helping three other people beat Erik Hood on Jan. 24, 2015, outside a high school basketball game in Phoenix.

Defense attorney James Belanger told jurors the case is tainted by Hood's mentor, who tried to solicit two witnesses to implicate the Morris brothers for a cash payment in return.

"That is outrageous," Belanger said. "And you should be outraged by that, and it affects every aspect of this case."

But Bailey stressed that Hood's mentor did not have any effect on witnesses' testimony, including the one made by the victim.

Those two witnesses testified about the mentor's attempt and their refusal to lie. They both went to break up the fight and placed the Morris brothers near the site but not as part of the altercation.

Belanger, who represents Markieff Morris, said the investigation done by police was "mediocre" and argued that the state's theory of Markieff acting as a lookout was "dead on arrival."

Belanger said neither of those two witnesses said they were threatened, or told not to go down to the fight by the Morris brothers.

Hood has known the Morris brothers since they were promising teenage AAU players, but they had a falling out.

Hood, 36, testified his relationship with the brothers became strained because of a misinterpreted text message he sent their mother. He said there was nothing "improper" happening with him and their mother.

Marcus was traded to the Boston Celtics in July and Markieff plays for the Washington Wizards.

The NBA players missed the start of their respective preseasons because of the two-week trial.

If they are found guilty, the Morris brothers face the possibility of probation or prison time and discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10-game suspension. Markieff Morris will also be sidelined for several weeks after having a sports hernia surgery.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly said Hood lied to police nine times when he said both twins were involved in the assault. Hood later changed his statement to say Markieff did not beat him but had been in the vicinity.

Belanger said Hood needed to keep one of the Morris brothers involved in the case.

Bailey told the jury to consider the "money aspect" but also the fact that Hood was beaten severely by the defendants and that he wants them to pay.

Two of the other co-defendants pleaded guilty Sept. 13 to the same aggravated assault charges. The Morris brothers and Bowman have pleaded not guilty.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE