Celtics

Celtics' Marcus Morris pleased his nickname -- Bench With Attitude -- is catching on

Celtics' Marcus Morris pleased his nickname -- Bench With Attitude -- is catching on

BOSTON — “You like B.W.A.?” Marcus Morris asked, a smile stretching across his face.

Morris coined the nickname  — an acronym for Bench With Attitude and a play off the rap group N.W.A. — for Boston’s backups during Monday’s Media Day and he’s pleased to hear it’s been positively received from all corners, even earning coach Brad Stevens’ immediate stamp of approval.

“[Fans are] selling t-shirts, I need a couple dollars off that,” said Morris. "I just want to have fun with all that. We definitely have a lot of guys who could start in this league. For opposing teams, if your bench not ready, it could get real ugly. When we get out there, we’re going to try to separate every time. That’s going to be our main focus.”

Morris’ bench brigade, with fellow headliners Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart, bested the starters during scrimmage work at the end of Day 2 of camp. But Morris said the goal of the B.W.A. isn’t to show that they should be starting, it’s to help Boston’s first unit be the best it can possibly be.

"For us, we’re just trying to be competitive. We’re trying to push them, man,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. "I don’t think it’s us trying to prove anything. I’ve been in the league a long time and these guys have been in the league, we know what each other can do. I think it’s more about the competition. The way I look at it, [the starters] can’t go and play against another bench that is going to be as good as us every day. I think that’s going to be great for us.”

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Morris' bench cohorts think the B.W.A. is the perfect description for a gritty group.

"We have the toughest team, the toughest bench, the toughest coach,” said Smart. "I definitely have a lot of attitude, I know Morris has some attitude, I know other guys have some attitude. I'm rocking with the name.”

It’s notable that the bench has pushed the starters in each of the two brief scrimmage sessions open to media since the start of camp. The bench might have held off the starters on Tuesday if not for Kyrie Irving’s last-second 3-pointer, and Rozier ensured no starter rally at the end of Wednesday’s work with a strong sequence that included a driving layup and a 3-pointer.

Stevens is quick to point out that he hasn’t necessarily announced his starters yet — though it’s a good bet that an Irving/Hayward/Al Horford/Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown combo will start most games, with Aron Baynes getting the occasional nod against lineups with pure centers — and the coach believes that having so many good players on the bench will force the starters to bring their A games each night.

"I love that [bench] group,” said Stevens. "Who knows how long those things will stay that way. You have a bunch of guys who have already proven they belong. It’s a responsibility of all the players to play as hard as they can. There’s no reason for us to have to get into a rhythm in a game, because we have a bunch of guys who will be itching to get in. That mindset off the bench will be really important.”

Morris is the biggest supporter for Boston’s starters and admitted the versatility of that group is what makes them so daunting on both ends of the court. But Morris believes the bench could be true difference-makers, able to pounce on teams with lesser second units. 

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In fact, he’s making that the mission statement of the B.W.A.

"I’m excited to see where we come in and change games,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. "That’s just our main focus is when our second unit comes in. If [opposing team’s] second unit’s not ready, you’re getting your a-- busted, you know I’m saying? That’s what it’s going to be.”

The Celtics’ bench players know that, even if they have to sacrifice their individual stat lines, everyone will benefit if the Celtics win. 

"For a team to be great you have to sacrifice, put your egos aside,” said Smart. "When you have a group of guys who come together like this, you believe in each other. Everybody just wants to play as a team.”

Which means the “Bench With Attitude" will also sometimes have to be the “Bench Without Attitude” if the Celtics are going to be successful. And Morris is perfectly fine with that.

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NBA Restart: Celtics still waiting on any bench player to step up

NBA Restart: Celtics still waiting on any bench player to step up

We could sit here and scream about how poor Boston’s defense has been inside the bubble. The Celtics own a defensive rating of 117.9 after their first three seeding games, and only one team has a worse mark (the helter-skelter Sixers).

We could lament Boston’s lethargy after the team whiffed Tuesday with a chance to essentially lock up the No. 3 seed while playing a Jimmy Butler-less Miami Heat team that was on the second night of a back-to-back.

Boston hasn’t played with any sort of consistent energy in its three games, falling behind early against Milwaukee, coughing up a big lead against Portland, and trying to play catchup all night against Miami.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nets, which begins Wednesday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

But here’s one thought we couldn’t shake while watching Tuesday’s game: What a luxury it is for Miami to have a rookie like Tyler Herro on their bench. Herro chipped in 11 points over 22 minutes during the Heat’s 112-106 triumph.

With Marcus Smart in foul trouble — so much so that he fouled out late in the third quarter — Boston lacked a bench boost. Take away Enes Kanter’s 10 points and the Celtics’ reserve trio of Grant Williams, Brad Wanamaker, and Smart combined for 14 points on 4-of-18 shooting.

At one point during the second half, Celtics coach Brad Stevens dispatched Romeo Langford for his first seeding-game minutes but Langford turned in a scoreless 3 minutes, 44 seconds, in which he mostly blended into the scenery.

Herro, of course, went one spot ahead of Langford in the 2019 draft. There had been a buzz before draft night that the Celtics were fond of Herro and that he had impressed the team with his shooting in one of his workouts. There might have even been a few groans inside the Auerbach Center when Miami snagged the Kentucky product at No. 13.

The Celtics ultimately took Langford, who has no shortage of potential and might eventually be a better pro. But his rookie season got off to a slow start as he healed from hand surgery and then he dealt with a bunch of minor maladies that even limited how much floor time he got with the Maine Red Claws of the G-League.

Herro has now appeared in 50 games for Miami while shooting a robust 39 percent beyond the 3-point arc on 5.4 attempts per game. He wasn’t even Miami’s best rookie this season — that distinction goes to Kendrick Nunn — but Herro won Erik Spoelstra’s confidence and is now a key rotation piece while logging 26.9 minutes per game.

On Tuesday, Miami’s four-man bench combined for 43 points on 31 shots while each player logged at least 21 minutes of floor time. For Boston, Semi Ojeleye missed five of his six shots, including multiple open 3s. Smart finished 0-for-5 shooting.

Make no mistake, Boston will lean heavy on its core players when the playoffs arrive. When Kemba Walker is off his minute restriction, and combined with a hefty dose of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, that might leave only a small handful of minutes for reserves not named Smart.

Still, games like Tuesday night show how important it is to have players that can take the baton, even if it’s only on rare nights. None of Boston’s younger players have shown enough this year to earn Stevens’ unwavering trust.

Again, guys like Grant Williams and Langford could have bright futures. Maybe Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters, too. That’s especially important for Boston because of how much money they have tied up long term in their core players.

But the fact of that matter is that, right now, none of Boston’s rookies have seized their opportunity, nor has 2018 first-round pick Robert Williams, who was only inserted late in Tuesday’s game to defend an inbounds attempt with his length and bounce.

Those players could get another chance to show what they’ve got on Wednesday when Boston plays a back-to-back against the Nets. With Walker set to rest his knee and Stevens unlikely to go too heavy on starter minutes in the team’s first (and only) bubble double, younger players will need to take advantage of whatever minutes come their way.

Herro won’t be the difference between a first-round upset and a first-round exit for Miami. But the Heat are well-positioned moving into the future because of the progress their youngest players made this season. It’s critical teams develop talent if they are going to commit most of their money to their top stars.

The Celtics are left waiting for their youngest players to show they are ready.

Enes Kanter Show: It could get ugly for opponents when Kemba’s healthy | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Celtics vs. Nets live stream: Watch 2020 NBA seeding game online

Celtics vs. Nets live stream: Watch 2020 NBA seeding game online

The Boston Celtics could use a win Wednesday night, and they'll have to earn it against a scrappy Brooklyn Nets team.

The Celtics enter Wednesday's NBA seeding round matchup just 1.5 games ahead of the Heat for the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed after falling to Miami on Tuesday night. The C's are 1-2 in the Orlando bubble and are ripe for a bounce-back game against the No. 7 seed Nets.

Brooklyn is 3-0 in seeding-round play, however, and upset the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and several other starters didn't play in the second half of that game, but the Nets have been playing hard in the absence of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

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Kemba Walker also won't play for the Celtics on Wednesday as Boston exercises caution with his left knee, so the C's will need to be sharp on the second leg of their back-to-back.

NBC Sports Boston has you covered with complete coverage of Celtics vs. Nets, starting at 8 p.m. ET with "Celtics Pregame Live". Tip off is scheduled for 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Boston, with complete postgame analysis after the final buzzer on "Celtics Postgame Live."

HOW TO WATCH

Celtics Talk Podcast: How much does a healthy Kemba Walker raise the Celtics’ ceiling? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 8 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Mike Gorman, Brian Scalabrine, Kyle Draper, Kendrick Perkins, Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Celtics Halftime Live. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.

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