Rookies prove their worth in crunch time


Rookies prove their worth in crunch time

HARTFORD -- With five seconds left in regulation, Doc Rivers pulled his crunch time unit together for a final huddle.

Jared Sullinger, Kris Joseph, Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith, and Micah Downs gathered on the court. Five rookies, including three undrafted players and a training camp invitee, were on the court to close out the game against the New York Knicks.

"He didn't say it," said Christmas, "But we knew once the fourth quarter came and he left us out there, we knew what time it was."

With the veterans on the sidelines, the group of young players, including fellow rookie Fab Melo, finished out the fourth quarter and played all of overtime in their 98-95 loss to the Knicks. While winning is always the focus, the players took away valuable experience being on the court.

"It felt good as a rookie knowing that he had that much confidence in our rookies," Smith said of Rivers. "For us to go out there and finish the game, unfortunately we didn't win, but just knowing that he had that confidence in us was pretty cool."

The young players have kept their ears open in practice. Even though they have several teammates ahead of them in the rotation, they have listened attentively to the strategies and schemes outlined by the coaches just in case they are called upon.

"We do a lot of different drills where we're down," explained Smith. "Sometimes we do a drill where we're down six with a minute-and-a-half left. We do a lot of different situational things, and I think that helped us more than anything."

While the young Celtics do not have that much experience in NBA games, they have plenty of it playing together. The rookies reported to practice facility in Waltham in August. They also bonded with the team during the trip to Europe. Getting to know one another helped them to communicate and reach their teammates late in the game.

"Just being with these guys every day, and especially being in Europe for the week, we saw each other all day long, every day," said Downs. "When you're in that type of situation, you get to learn the ins and outs of each other, not only on the court but off the court -- what people like, what their interests are, things like that. When you know that about your friends and your teammates, it makes everybody come together better and be more cohesive."

The Celtics veterans have also pushed their younger teammates throughout training camp, day in and day out in practice.That tough love is already paying off.

Said Sullinger, "Going against the starting five every day, playing against those guys, and trying to compete with those guys really helps us out at the end of the day."

They showed it in only their third preseason game.

Marcus Morris targeting Oct. 30 game vs. Spurs as date for Celtics debut


Marcus Morris targeting Oct. 30 game vs. Spurs as date for Celtics debut

WALTHAM -- It appears Marcus Morris’ debut for the Celtics will be when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 30.
The 6-foot-9 forward confirmed to reporters on Monday that, for now, that’s the target date.
Morris spent time after practice playing some one-one-one against rookie Jayson Tatum.
“I’m trying to push on it a little more,” he said. “Felt pretty good beating the rook’s ass one-on-one.”
The addition of Morris to the lineup can’t come soon enough for the Celtics (1-2).  They have already lost Gordon Hayward (ankle) for the season, and Marcus Smart (ankle) missed Friday’s win over Philadelphia. Smart said he would probably be in uniform for Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks. 
Those injuries have forced the Celtics to dig deeper into their roster, resulting in several first-year players seeing action. 
Having a veteran like Morris on the floor would bode well for the Celts in their quest to remain among the better teams in the East this season. 
Morris, who went through the non-contact portion of practice on Monday, joined the Celtics on Oct. 5, shortly after he and his brother Markieff (who plays for Washington) were acquitted of assault charges involving an incident in Phoenix in January of 2015. He appeared in one preseason game, scoring seven points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field.

Coach Brad Stevens said Morris was having some knee discomfort when he showed up for training camp. That, combined with showing up late to training camp because of his court case in Phoenix, resulted in him not having the level of conditioning he’s used to at the start of training camp. 
“It’s not that I’m in bad shape,” he told NBC Sports Boston earlier. “It’s just that I’m not where I expect myself to be conditioning-wise, right now.”
Morris echoed similar sentiments on Monday. 
“I’m in great condition,” he said. “I just want to be a little better. My conditioning has never been the problem. It’s the soreness in my [left] knee. It’s gotten a lot better over the past 10 days, so I feel I can play now. But be cautious because it’s a long season.”
Morris was acquired in the summer by Boston from Detroit, in exchange for Avery Bradley. The move was done to not only ensure there was enough salary cap space to sign then-free agent Gordon Hayward, but also for the Celtics to add a versatile player who can play both forward positions.