Marcus Morris

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Russell, VanVleet, Hardaway

Despite being in the midst of a 15-game win streak, the Celtics aren’t satisfied, reports Marc D’Amico of Celtics.com and Chris Forsberg of ESPN. While arguably sporting the league’s best defense, head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t believe his team’s offense is where it needs to be. “We got a lot to improve on [offensively],” Stevens said.

The Celtics shot only 32.9% from the field in their win against the Warriors, and while they have leaned on a league-leading defense giving up a mere 95.4 points per 100 possessions, the C’s are currently 27th in the NBA in FG%. We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid, in my opinion,” Stevens said. “We’ve figured out ways to win games (but) we’ve got to be better, and we know that.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, one way the Celtics can create more offense is to play Marcus Morris more with the second unit. Morris scored 14 points in Saturday’s win against Atlanta.
  • The Nets are trying to remain positive and maintain a “next man up” mentality after losing D’Angelo Russell to a right knee injury for the foreseeable future, writes Anthony Puccio for NetsDaily.com. The Nets also lost Jeremy Lin to a right knee injury after he suffered a ruptured patella tendon in the season opener, but head coach Kenny Atkinson is confident in the players being called on to step up. “We have a good group of wings, and guards,” said Atkinson. “I think we’ve developed sufficiently enough to withstand injuries.”
  • After going undrafted following a successful four-year college career at Wichita State, second-year guard Fred VanVleet is finding his niche with the Raptors as a fighter on the defensive end of the floor, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star“He’s a grinder, he’s a survivor, he’s a worker, he’s had to fight for everything he’s ever gotten in his life,” says head coach Dwane Casey. “He gets into the guys, he’s a little pitbull from that standpoint. He brings everything to the table that you need.”
  • Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek believes that Tim Hardaway Jr. is suffering from something similar to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Hardaway Jr., who removed himself from last week’s loss to Toronto and sat out of yesterday’s practice, plans to play through the pain in spite of the risk. “It could help if he rests,” Hornacek said. “But Tim wants to play. He’s a tough kid. He’s a competitor. He feels that he’s got enough for us that he can go.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Nets, Miles

Despite losing two of their most notable defenders over the course of the offseason, the new-look Celtics boast an imposing defensive front thanks to returning defensive quarterback Al Horford and new addition Kyrie Irving, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes.

In fact, if the NBA season were to end today, the Celtics would have the highest defensive rating (95.9) of any team since the 2004/05 Spurs. That’s a franchise improvement of 9.6 points over last season, a fact even more impressive when you consider that in addition to the new faces, the club also heavily features youth in their lineup, starting both 21-year-old Jaylen Brown and 19-year-old Jayson Tatum.

As Forsberg writes, the Celtics may have lost defensive skill over the summer but they gained length. By replacing Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder with Irving, Brown and Tatum, the club gained more than a foot in height.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • A profile on new Nets minority owner Joe Tsai reveals that the Alibaba co-founder’s favorite player is Jeremy Lin, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Tsai also praised second-year swingman Caris LeVert.
  • The Raptors haven’t relied heavily on C.J. Miles from beyond the arc but his presence on the perimeter has served as a decoy for the Raptors’ offense, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. “He is a product of great spacing,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “He helps our spacing and that is one reason why the roll guy is so productive. They are hugged up on him [out beyond the arc], which is great, and to me that is just as good as C.J. knocking down a three or even getting an attempt.
  • While the plan was to keep Marcus Morris on a minute restriction following his return from a knee injury, injuries to other players have impacted that strategy. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes that the newly acquired Celtics forward has been called upon to play 22-25 minutes but that they’ll see how his body responds on a game-by-game basis.

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Morris, Crabbe, Russell

The Celtics remain interested in Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, but won’t give up a first-round pick to get him, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Boston views the third-year center as more of a project than an immediate contributor and is reluctant to part with a significant asset.

Okafor has been on the market for more than a year, but his fate became obvious when the Sixers decided this week not to pick up his option for 2018/19. Washburn contends Philadelphia has let Okafor’s market value slip by not playing him. He has appeared in just one game this season.

Washburn compliments Okafor for the way he has handled a difficult situation and says the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft has kept himself in good shape despite the lack of playing time. The Bucks, Cavaliers, Spurs and Nuggets also have interest in Okafor, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops, but so far no one is willing to meet the Sixers‘ asking price.

There’s more this morning from the Atlantic Division:

  • Marcus Morris made an immediate impact Friday in his first game for the Celtics, notes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. After being slowed by soreness in his left knee, Morris debuted with nine points and four rebounds in a win over the Thunder, and his defense on Carmelo Anthony helped Boston overcome a large deficit.
  • Allen Crabbe posted his best game since joining the Nets with 25 points Friday against the Lakers, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The fifth-year swingman was acquired from the Trail Blazers in a July trade to boost Brooklyn’s offense, but has started the season in a shooting slump, hitting just 15 of 43 from 3-point range before Friday night. “I think he’s finding his rhythm. He’s going to get better and better,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “He was struggling because he missed a fair amount of time at training camp. I [don’t] think he was physically at his peak. You’ll see him get better as the season goes on.”
  • Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell has responded to comments from Lakers president Magic Johnson suggesting he wasn’t a leader during his time in Los Angeles, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“I would say it ruffled a few feathers,” said Russell, who spent two seasons in L.A. after being the second pick in the 2015 draft. “But you control what you can control. He’s in a position to say what he wants, so I just try to do what I can do at the end of the day.”

Atlantic Notes: Morris, Porzingis, Holmes

The Celtics will get Marcus Morris back tonight, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston tweets. The 28-year-old forward will make his debut with the franchise after coming over from the Pistons in a trade last summer.

Expect Morris to come off the bench in his Celtics debut with a minute restriction of around 20, Blakely adds in a second tweet.

Last season Morris averaged 14.0 points in 32.5 minutes per game for the Pistons. This year he’ll look to provide toughness and veteran leadership to a Celtics team eager to prove that they’re deep enough across the board to win the Eastern Conference.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Leave it to former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni to understand what current coach Jeff Hornacek is going through as the man on the sidelines under the New York media spotlight. “He’s been around the game forever,” D’Antoni told Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “But you do have to get through the noise. Whether you listen to it or not, I don’t know. Hopefully he doesn’t. The way the team is playing right now, it looks good . . . Just don’t respond and don’t listen to it and if you don’t, you can live a very happy life.
  • The Sixers have plenty of big men but that doesn’t mean head coach Brett Brown isn’t still excited about the return of Richaun Holmes, who has missed the first two weeks of the season with a wrist injury. The center will return to action tonight, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes. “His breakaway-like rim-to-rim speed in early offense is A-plus,” Brown said. “There is sort of tenacity and toughness. He wears his heart on his sleeve that I think adds to what we are trying to do anyways. But there’s just a bounce to Richaun Holmes that makes him different.
  • The emergence of Kristaps Porzingis has brought a familiar but rare buzz back to Madison Square Garden. Barbara Barker of Newsday wrote about the excitement that surrounds the Knicks now, for the first time since Linsanity in 2012.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 10/30/17

Here are Monday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who is working his way back from a knee injury, was assigned to the G League today and was later recalled by the C’s, according to the club (Twitter link). Morris, who participated in practice today with the Maine Red Claws, is expected to play in his first game for Boston at some point this week.
  • The Jazz have assigned Tony Bradley to the Salt Lake City Stars, the team announced today in a press release. The rookie center, selected 28th overall in this year’s draft, has yet to make his regular season NBA debut.
  • It looks like Isaiah Whitehead will bounce back and forth between the Brooklyn Nets and Long Island Nets frequently throughout the 2017/18 season. The team issued a press release today announcing that Whitehead has been sent to the G League — it’s already his third assignment of the season.

Celtics Notes: Morris, Baynes, Defense, Ojeleye

Marcus Morris may be ready for his debut with the Celtics this week, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. The 6’9 forward was acquired from the Pistons this summer in a deal for Avery Bradley, but has been unable to suit up because of soreness in his left knee. Morris had hoped to be ready for tomorrow’s game with the Spurs, but now Wednesday seems most likely.

“He needs to have at least a day of hard practice with our guys before he could play in a game,” said coach Brad Stevens. “That’s probably a little bit optimistic for Monday.” Morris didn’t travel with the team on its current road trip, staying in Boston for more treatments on the knee.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Aron Baynes was an under-the-radar move in a newsworthy Celtics offseason, but he is turning out to be a valuable addition, Blakely writes in a separate story. The former Piston has provided a physical presence in the paint, something the team lacked last year. Baynes, who signed a one-year, $4.3MM deal, has started three of the six games so far and is averaging 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per night. “Everybody has their own role to play and value to add,” Stevens said. “He’s physical and tough.”
  • There were concerns that Boston’s defense might decline after losing Jae Crowder and Bradley in offseason trades, but early-season numbers show an improvement, Blakely notes in another piece. The Celtics ranked third in the league heading into Saturday’s game with a defensive rating of 95.9. They are in the top 10 in steals, points off turnovers and effective field goal percentage. “It’s great team defense,” said Daniel Theis, who got his first start this week. “Two games in a row now, under 90 points, that’s really good defense.”
  • Rookie forward Semi Ojeleye only plays about 11 minutes per night, but he gets the toughest defensive matchups when he’s on the court, writes Jay King of MassLive. A second-round pick in this year’s draft, Ojeleye earned a roster spot on the strength of his defense and the Celtics have taken advantage of that attribute since the season began. Ojeleye has found himself matched up with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis and LeBron James. “You just try to prepare, watch film, try to be always ready,” Ojeleye said. “You try to take it seriously, know their tendencies, and go out there and just do what you can.”

Celtics’ Marcus Morris Won’t Play This Week

12:30pm: Morris participated in the non-contact part of today’s practice, but Stevens said he won’t play this week, tweets ESPN’s Chris Forsberg.

11:30am: Marcus Morris could be cleared to make his debut with the Celtics tomorrow if he is able to practice today, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

The team is being cautious with the seventh-year forward, who was acquired from the Pistons in an offseason trade. He sat out the first three games because of soreness in his left knee.

Coach Brad Stevens said the team plans to re-evaluate Morris’ condition this week, suggesting that he might be ready for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks.

Morris would be a welcome addition for a team that is still reeling from the season-ending injury to free agent addition Gordon Hayward last Tuesday. Morris averaged 14.0 points per game with the Pistons last season and would provide some needed scoring punch.

“And at the end of the day, I want Marcus to be able to come back and be healthy and feel good,” said Al Horford. “We don’t want any setbacks, so as much as we want him out there, he needs to get healthy.”

Boston has been using a young lineup in the absence of Morris and Hayward, starting rookie Jayson Tatum and second-year player Jaylen Brown. Morris promises to bring “veteranship” to the unit and is confident his knee will hold up for the season.

“As soon as I get there, I think it’ll be fine,” Morris said. “I’m a veteran. This is my seventh year in the league. I’ve just got to move around and cut. I think it’ll be very easy for me. It’s just playing basketball the right way.”

Celtics Notes: Smart, Morris, Tatum, Crowder

At one point this offseason, the Celtics were carrying 16 players on guaranteed contracts on their roster, facing a potentially tricky preseason decision on which player to cut or trade. However, their three-for-one deal for Kyrie Irving solved that problem, and cleared a path for the club to maintain some flexibility to open the season. After making five cuts within the last week, the Celtics are set to open the season with just 14 players on their NBA roster.

With Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird also in the mix on two-way contracts, Boston should have more than enough depth to start the season. Keeping that 15th roster spot open will allow the team to save a little money and keep its options open in the event that a potential trade or free agent signing surfaces.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • A week ago, Marcus Smart indicated that the Celtics had yet to engage in talks with his agent about a possible extension. The deadline to make a deal is today, and Danny Ainge recently confirmed to NBC Boston that he and Smart’s agent have begun to discuss numbers for a possible extension (Twitter link via Adam Kaufman).
  • David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link) suggests that Austin Rivers‘ three-year, $35MM contract makes sense as a template for Smart, but Aldridge hears that the Celtics guard is seeking a more lucrative deal. Rookie scale extensions are also required to run at least four years.
  • Marcus Morris is expected to be sidelined for at least the first week of the regular season with right knee soreness, writes Jay King of MassLive.com. While Morris rests and recovers, rookie forward Jayson Tatum may be in line to replace him in the starting lineup.
  • Jae Crowder, who says he’s thankful for the opportunity the Celtics gave him, still gets emotional when he remembers the day he was traded to Cleveland. Crowder was in Houston with his ailing mother, who passed away five minutes after he told her about the deal. Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald has the story and the quotes from Crowder.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Hornacek, Holmes, Morris

The Sixers could still have $40MM in cap space next season despite agreeing to a five-year, $148MM extension with center Joel Embiid, ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out. Embiid’s starting salary of $25.3MM is $7MM more than his $18.3MM cap hold for the 2018/19 season, Marks continues. Philadelphia still has just $57MM in guaranteed contract commitments for next season, Marks adds.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • The current Knicks roster puts head coach Jeff Hornacek in a no-win situation, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News argues. The front office has stressed improvement in effort and stops but recent acquisitions Tim Hardaway Jr., Michael Beasley, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott won’t improve the defense, Bondy continues. Hornacek will have the unenviable task of trying to develop a system to mask those defensive shortcomings, Bondy adds.
  • Injured Sixers power forward Richaun Holmes doesn’t believe he’ll require surgery on his injured wrist, Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia tweets. Holmes suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist during a preseason game on Friday.
  • Celtics forward Marcus Morris needs to drops about seven pounds and work on his conditioning but he plans to play the regular-season opener, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports. Morris missed a portion of training camp while on trial in Phoenix for an assault charge. He was acquitted.
  • Forward K.J. McDaniels and Alfonzo McKinnie are likely fighting for the final spot on the Raptors’ opening-day roster, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. There’s room for both but GM Bobby Webster has expressed a desire to leave a spot open, Smith continues. Raptors coach Dwane Casey told Smith and other media members that the competition between the two is close. “There’s right now no clear-cut favorite going into this week,” he said.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Morris, Yabusele, Irving

The Sixers had strong interest in Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum after landing the third pick in this year’s lottery, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Philadelphia sent a large group to Los Angeles to watch Tatum work out, and the Duke freshman’s talents on offense were obvious. “He had sort of a different type of NBA game where a lot of his workout was at that sort of Carmelo [Anthony] isolation, the 18-foot spot where he can turn and face and have a series of moves that we felt like actually could translate to the NBA,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “And then he started picking and popping and shooting NBA threes. But his offensive ability stood out, and the person stood out.”

Tatum had a sense that he was headed to Philadelphia, with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball projected as the top picks. That was before the Sixers completed a trade to get the number one selection from Boston, a deal that Tatum knows will probably link him with Fultz for as long as they’re both in the NBA. “It’ll be interesting to see how things play out over the years,” Tatum said.

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • Coach Brad Stevens had planned to use Celtics newcomer Marcus Morris in Friday’s game, but Morris asked for more time to prepare, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Morris didn’t practice with the Celtics until Thursday because of an assault trial in Phoenix in which he and his brother were both acquitted. “I did miss training camp and part of the preseason,” Morris said, “so I need to just get a couple more practices up under my belt to get moving a little bit better.”
  • The Celtics have clear instructions for rookie Guerschon Yabusele, who figures to see time as a backup center and power forward, Bulpett writes in the same story. They want him to pattern his game after Al Horford. Yabusele was taken with the 16th pick in the 2016 draft, then spent last season in China before joining Boston’s G League affiliate late in the year. “We know what he brings to the table, so, again, it’s matching him up with the right guys around him,” Stevens said. “But he’s got to be a guy that can kind of be a playmaker a la Al for us, where he gets the ball at the top of the key and can be a passer, he can shoot it, he can drive it.”
  • New Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving is happy with Stevens’ decision not to name a team captain, Bulpett adds. Irving said being a captain was a big deal in grade school, but shouldn’t matter in the NBA. “We all have leadership within ourselves,” he said. “We have to police ourselves, at the end of the day, and then make it make sense for our team. And if we remain growth oriented and have that humility to continue to get better and know where we come from and know what we bring to the table, we’ll be fine.”
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