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.”
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.
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.