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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Enes Kanter shows big support for 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall in latest tweet

Enes Kanter shows big support for 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall in latest tweet

Enes Kanter seems to be a fan of Boston Celtics' 7-foot-7 rookie Tacko Fall.

Kanter posted a video to Twitter of Fall practicing at Auerbach Center, and he took time to praise Fall's efforts on Twitter.

The Celtics' signed Kanter to a two-year $10 million deal back in July, while Fall entered Boston's system as an undrafted free agent but he impressed in the Las Vegas Summer League. Kanter is the replacement for Al Horford, who left the Celtics over the summer for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The two should be a great duo for the Celtics, as both have the height and skill to be something special this coming season.

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

Entering training camp a year ago, expectations were sky-high for the Celtics. Most pundits considered them the team to beat in the East. Vegas fancied Boston as a 59-win team, the second-highest win total behind only Golden State. And a Finals matchup between those two teams was far from a pipe dream.

Fast forward a year and expectations have been tempered. The Celtics lost a pair of All-Stars this summer in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford and, despite signing another in Kemba Walker, the team finds itself widely considered a Tier 2 team in the East behind projection darlings Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

So what happens this year? Do the Celtics go back to being the sort of overachievers that have defined Brad Stevens’ coaching career? Will a younger roster struggle to simply meet even the lowered expectations of this season?

To wrap up Week 1 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to look into their crystal balls and predict not only Boston’s final win-loss record but how far they’d advance in the playoffs.

The  Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook projects Boston at 49.5 wins this season. The Bucks (58) and Sixers (55) top the Westgate projections and the next five teams all reside in the west. 

The Celtics went 49-33 last season, settling for the fourth seed in the East. They swept the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers in Round 1 but bowed to the top-seeded Bucks in five games in Round 2.

When you consider that Westgate’s four lowest win totals reside in the East (Knicks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Hornets) and seven East teams sit below 40 wins, it feels like the Celtics should reasonably win 50+ games despite the roster changes.

So we’ll put the Celtics at 52 wins and a spot in the East semifinals. That seeding would likely mean a second-round matchup jousting with either Giannis’ Bucks or Embiid’s Sixers and Boston’s frontcourt development might dictate just how competitive those series could be. Remember, too, Stevens tends to produce his best magic when you least expect it.

The irony, of course, is that the Celtics could win 49 games this season and get bounced in Round 2 again but if they develop chemistry and are more enjoyable to watch then last year’s gang, then Celtics fans will be far more OK with that script playing out a second time — well, so long as players make the sort of strides that suggest more is possible in the coming years.

Abby Chin: 50-32 Eastern Conference Finals

I think purely based on better chemistry and grit, this team will improve on last year’s win total. And, I’ll bank on some luck in the playoff bracket. Maybe with injuries, or regular season Al Horford, Philly and Milwaukee fall to the 2 and 3 seed so the Celtics could avoid them in the first couple rounds.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: 50-32, East Finals

I'm gonna keep the cookies on the bottom shelf with this one. They are a better team (team not individuals) than they're going to get credit for, and they have a roster that's full of talent with a huge chip on their shoulders from the coach on down. This group will play harder, smarter and win a lot of games they probably shouldn't and by doing so, keep Celtics fans extremely happy all season.

Max Lederman: 51-31, lose in 2nd round

Before last season the Celtics have always overachieved under Brad Stevens. I expect a return to that with lowered expectations this season. The Celtics also had their worst record vs winning teams last year since Brad's 2nd season. They should put up a better fight this season.

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