While the headlines were bombarded with Kyrie’s excitement of his future with the Celtics, Hayward’s return, and Tatum’s HOF-packed summer, not a lot of eyes were on Marcus Morris. As one of the leaders of last year’s “Hospital Celtics,” the player who passionately refers to himself as “Beantown Bully,” quickly stole the hearts of Celtics fans with his emotional play.
Morris is as tough as they come, but maybe the strongest feat he displayed was in an interview with Jackie MacMullan this summer to discuss his battle with depression throughout his career. During his Media Day interview he shed some light on what empowered him to share his journey:
“For players who come from the same neighborhood I come, the challenge of defeat in the NBA, you know, not knowing what team you’re going to be on, when you’re going to play and things like that, I think people overlook that. We already start with our backs against the wall, so you know, it’s hard for us to trust and I think that a lot of players don’t get past that and I think that’s what kind of stalls their careers. At times when you see defeat or get traded or you don’t know if you’re going to make the team and things like that, you know people don’t really focus on how hard it is to overcome those things because of the situation you already overcame growing up.”
For Morris, this year in Boston could prove to be his next battle with stability. The Celtics seem inclined to keep him because he plays one of the most important positions in basketball and whether it’s defending Ben Simmons, Kawhi Leonard, or any of the Warriors, you can never have a shortage of versatile pieces. How he fits in regards to play time and role are still up in the air, but he’s coming in to it with the right attitude telling reporters during his interviews, “At the end of the day, winning supersedes everything.”
If Morris does come in with that type of mindset, he could be in for one of his most efficient seasons ever. Throughout the year, we lived with two types of Marcus Morris experiences: either he was a catch-and-shoot monster like his game in Portland or he went full “iso Mook” and took contested, low-percentage shots.
Mook shot 41.6% on 3.8 attempts from three during the Celtics’ playoff run, but still finished with a 39.4 FG%. Why? He took about 7 attempts from within the arc and only made 38.2% of those looks; they were primarily of the pull-up and fadeaway variety. A majority of those type of shots came due to the Celtics having to rely on Morris to an extent because they were down their second best scorer in Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum was still finding his way, and then Kyrie Irving went down raising the need even more for the Celtics to find someone who could get a bucket. Decreasing the freelance possessions Morris has on offense and allowing him to a be more of a traditional “3-and-D” player who can occasionally beat up on smaller defenders is an ideal offensive role, and armed with a fresh arsenal of playmakers, that can become more of a reality.
Morris has dubbed the Celtics second unit “BWA,” standing for “Bench with Attitude.” Between Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, and himself, they will have all toughness and attitude most teams don’t have off their benches. However, even with the depth that the Celtics possess, Morris still plays a vital role. He’s one of the veterans of the team at only 28-years-old and shares a responsibility of setting the tone and bringing a toughness to a Celtics squad that will surely be challenged on a night-to-night basis. Whether it’s Richard Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, Shane Battier, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom or Manu Ginobli, every team with championship aspirations needs a requisite boost from a player in their second unit. Think James Posey from that 2008 championship squad. For Morris, becoming a member of that lineage could end up giving him the stability that’s eluded him his entire career.