INDIANAPOLIS – Marcus Morris is having a career year and looks the part of a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Just don’t ask him about that.
Morris, who spoke to Celtics.com ahead of Saturday morning’s shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, politely scoffed at the notion of him being in the running for the coveted reserve award.
“We only played, what, eight games?” he asked. “If we get to 40 or something like that, then we can have a small conversation.”
For now, it appears, the conversation will be had on his behalf.
Morris enters tonight’s game against the Pacers with career-high averages of 14.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Those numbers rank eighth and fifth, respectively, among the NBA’s reserves. Morris also leads the team with two double-doubles and narrowly missed a third Tuesday night, when he tallied 15 points and nine boards against the Pistons. Don’t forget about his fiery and versatile defense, either.
What has caught the ire of most opponents, however, has been his Morris’ stellar 3-point shooting.
The versatile forward has connected on a team-best 51.3 percent of his attempts this season, which ranks seventh among reserves averaging more than 2.0 attempts from long distance this season. Which brings up the most impressive element of all: Morris is doing this while shooting the long-ball in bulk.
Only Kyrie Irving, who is attempting 6.0 3s per game, is letting it fly from long distance more often than Morris on Boston’s roster. Morris is shooting an average of 4.9 treys per game, which is also a career high. Yet despite the increase in attempts, Morris has connected more often than he has missed through the first eight games of the season.
As he stated bluntly, “I’m hot right now, man.”
That might be an understatement. He is playing with incredible levels of both confidence and comfort, and that’s no surprise given how Morris has bought into his role this season.
It would have been easy for the eighth-year forward, who started in nearly 75 percent of his appearances over the previous four seasons, to rebel against his role as a reserve on this Boston team. Instead, he has relished it.
Since the first day of training camp, Morris has been preaching about the talent on Boston’s bench, him included. He named it the BWA – Bench With Attitude – knowing that the group had the ability to dominate opposing benches and fuel the Celtics’ success.
“I knew guys like T-Ro (Terry Rozier) were going to have to come off the bench. (Marcus) Smart was going to have to come off,” he said. “I just thought there were other guys that were in the same situation I am: we could be starters on another team, and we take pride in that.”
Such has not always been the case with Morris, or with many other NBA players who know their worth. As recently as last season, he made it clear that he preferred to start, and there was nothing wrong with that perspective. Every player wants to start, especially when they’re good enough to do so. But not every player can start, and that’s a fact that Morris has gracefully accepted this season.
A major life event that took place during the offseason may have played a role in that acceptance. Morris became Morris Sr. when his first child was born in June. The presence of his son, with whom he naps on game days, has changed the way he sees things.
“In general, just the way I approach life. The way I wake up every morning,” he said of what’s different for him now that Marcus Morris Jr. is on board. “The happiness, the blessing that I feel having him, being able to see him every day … He’s just been special to me.”
Likewise, the new father has been just as special to the Celtics.
With his son watching, Morris is putting together the best season of his career while not only accepting his role as a reserve, but relishing it. Now he’s placed himself square in the early running for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
He may not want to talk about it, but everyone else must. With these types of numbers, it’s simply unavoidable.