WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Morris was one of the last players to show up for the Boston Celtics’ training camp, which is the last thing someone new to a franchise wants.
Not only has it meant playing catch-up in terms of developing chemistry with his new teammates, but it has made it tougher for Morris to achieve what every player in the NBA wants which is to be a starter.
Morris, who was acquired this summer from Detroit in exchange for Avery Bradley, is going to play for the Celtics in the opener Tuesday at Cleveland.
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That’s a given.
But as a starter?
Most of his time since joining the Celtics after being acquitted of assault charges along with his twin brother Markieff earlier this month in Phoenix, has been spent with Boston’s second unit.
But in Boston’s 108-100 preseason win over Charlotte last week, Morris spent the final 4:27 of the second quarter playing with the Celtics’ projected starters – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown.
When the group stepped on the floor together, Boston had a 42-33 lead.
By the time halftime arrived, they had closed out the second quarter with a 15-5 run to lead 57-38.
“It was fun getting out there playing (with the first unit),” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve been practicing with the second team a lot so I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Either way, I have to approach the game as a pro; starting or coming off (the bench). I’d rather be starting, but I gotta do what’s best for the team whatever that’s gonna be.”
Heading into this fifth season as the Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens has not had a roster with this kind of depth or versatility.
Because of that, the Celtics may have starting lineups that are opponent-specific instead of a set starting five.
Boston played four preseason games and had a different starting lineup in each game, and yet still managed to win all four games.
Morris’ desire to be a starter makes sense considering he hasn’t come off the bench in a regular season game since March 9, 2015 against Golden State.
And at 6-foot-9 with the ability to play inside-outside basketball and defend most power forwards and still switch out from time to time on bigs and wing players, Morris’ versatility fits in well with the type of lineups that the Celtics are looking to find success with this season.
Plus, having Morris start at power forward would mean Al Horford shifting over to center.
Last season, the Celtics had quite a bit of success when Horford was playing in the middle and, because of Horford’s ability to stretch the floor, often led to better spacing for Horford’s teammates and opportunities for the 6-10 Horford to score.
“The way our game has changed, power forward and center are so much more interchangeable now,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “My approach to that is the same now as it’s always been; I’ll do whatever has to be done in order to help our team win games.”
And while Morris’ desire to remain a starter is undeniable, he understands circumstances are such that coming off the bench may be the best thing for him and the Celtics right now.
“I did miss training camp and (most of the) preseason,” Morris said.
But by no means would he be resigned to the idea that he’ll be a key reserve all season.
“I would just work my way back into it,” he said. “If I’m playing, I sure hope I do start. But that’s a decision that he (head coach Brad Stevens) makes. However it is, I’m gonna be a pro and approach the game the same way and do what my team needs me to do, to win.”