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NBA AM: The 2015 NBA Free Agents

There are 245 players that have uncertain status beyond the current season, a number of them could be in the center of trade talks in the coming months… The Notable Extendables.

Steve Kyler

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The 2015 Free Agents:  With the 2014-15 NBA season now firmly on tap with the release of the regular season schedule yesterday, there are somethings to think about in regards to next season, especially as it pertains to free agency.

As currently constructed, there are 245 players that have uncertain status beyond the current season. This includes 59 players with team options, which are usually picked up, especially for first round draft picks. There are 41 players who can be issued qualifying offers and have their free agency restricted. There are 30 players with player options for free agency; a large number of those are likely to be exercised in order to secure new long-term deals. Thirty four players have some level of non-guaranteed money owed them beyond the upcoming season. Seventy nine players look poised to be unrestricted free agents barring an extension during the season. There are just two players with early termination options.

Click here for the complete list of 2015-2016 Free Agents

There are some notable names to know regarding next year’s free agents class, here are just a few of them:

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers – $20,644,400 (option worth $21.57M)

While the conspiracy theorists want to make a big deal out of James’ decision to sign a short-term deal, what he has done is given himself repeated options to cash in. More importantly, it ensures the power stays on his side of the equation.

The plan for James is to re-sign as frequently as possible and stay on the top end of his earning potential. This was discussed with the Cavaliers and they are fully on board, so discussing James as a free agent next year is unrealistic unless things go massively bad.

Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves – $15,719,062 (option worth $16.744M)

It is commonly believed that the Timberwolves and Cavaliers will trigger a trade sending Love to the Cavs on our about August 23. There have also been reports that Love and the Cavs have had some level of contract discussions about what it would take to re-sign him going forward. The plan for Love is to opt out of his remaining $16.74 million contract year and sign a new max level deal in July; such a deal would likely be worth $120 plus million over five years. NBA teams are not permitted to make future contract agreements with players in Love’s situation, however knowing a player wants a max level deal and agreeing that something like that is workable is not the same as hammering out a completed contract. Love’s potential trade to the Cavaliers is likely going to be scrutinized heavily, mainly because it’s been characterized that the Cavs and Love have a firm commitment in place, something both sides are likely going to deny wholeheartedly. It is important to note that there can be nothing binding between Love and the Cavaliers beyond the terms of his existing contract, so there is a small window to consider Love in free agency, but it’s likely to be a very small one if there is any shot at all.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics – $12,909,090

The Celtics have a dilemma. They seem to be open to keeping Rajon Rondo long-term, but unless he would sign a contract extension – something he is highly unlikely to do – he is poised to be an unrestricted free agent in July.

If the Celtics cannot get a sense of commitment from Rondo beyond this year, they have to trade him or risk losing him for nothing in return.

Rondo is considered the top obtainable free agent in the 2015 free agent class and he is likely going to command a max level, or near max level contract.

It seem inevitable that Rondo is going to be traded, the question is what’s the return going to be for Boston, especially when it’s more likely than not that Rondo explores his options in July?

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers – $16,256,000

Two seasons ago it seemed like a foregone conclusion that LaMarcus would be leaving Portland. Today it seems unlikely that he won’t be back on a new long term deal in July. Aldridge has said repeatedly that his intention in July is to sign a new max contract with the Trail Blazers.

Like all potential unrestricted free agents, there is risk for Portland, but given that both sides of this have a very open dialogue going, it’s unlikely that Aldridge isn’t back in Portland. But, this one will linger, and Aldridge’s name is going to come up a lot even though it’s unlikely he’s going anywhere.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies – $15,829,688

The odds that Marc Gasol is not in Memphis next year are fairly small. The Grizzlies are going to pay Gasol the max level money he’ll command; unfortunately, like Love, in order for Gasol to get all that’s available he’ll have to hit free agency in July.

Gasol could sign an extension, but that would leave money on the table as he is now eligible for 30 percent of the upcoming salary cap projected to be $66 million. Doing the math, that’s a starting salary next year in the $19.8 million range, wherein an extension would be based on a minor increase on his $15.82 million salary this year.

There is always a risk of losing a player whenever they can hit unrestricted free agency, but the sense from Gasol and the Grizzlies is that as long as a max offer is there in June, he’ll re-sign.

Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets – $7,500,000 (option worth $7.5M)

It is extremely likely that Afflalo will opt out of his deal in Denver this summer. Afflalo has steadily improved over the last two seasons and hopes to put an All-Star caliber season together this year in Denver.

It is possible that Denver explores Afflalo’s trade value given that he is likely going to command a deal at the top end of his range ($10-$12 million per season). That may be too rich for Denver’s liking.

In terms of potentially available players, Afflalo looks to be one of them.

Jeff Green, Boston Celtics – $9,200,000 (option worth $9.20m)

The Celtics have had trade talks regarding Jeff Green for almost two years. With the Celtics poised to have what looks to be a sub-par season there is a strong chance that Green is packed into any trade involving the aforementioned Rondo.

Green has the option to hit free agency. Assuming he plays well this season, the odds are good that he’ll opt-out and re-sign in a situation of his choosing and trade his remaining $9.2 million in for a longer term deal.

Luol Deng, Miami HEAT – $9,714,461 (option worth $10.15M)

Deng turned down a multi-year extension with the Bulls last season valued at roughly $10 million a season, prompting his trade to the Cavaliers. After a ho-hum showing in Cleveland, Deng got considerable attention as a free agent but did not command that upper tier money his camp expected after several All-Star appearances.

Deng needs to have a strong season in Miami if he hopes to cash in. The structure of his deal with the HEAT allows for him to opt-out in July, something he will likely do if he can out-play his contract.

Deng is a 50/50 candidate for free agency in July. Those odds go up if he returns to All-Star form.

David West, Indiana Pacers – $12,000,000 (option worth $12.6M)

West’s deal with the Pacers seemed like the twilight deal; he’d play out the deal make a couple of runs at a championship, however with Paul George out for the season and the Pacers in something of disarray as a result, there is a belief that West might get traded at some point this season. The prevailing thought on the Pacers is that they will open camp and make a go of it and see what they have. If the team starts to fall off, then changes and significant trades are likely.

West will turn 34 this month, so he’s not exactly a spring chicken, but with this year and a player option year left on his deal, he may be more attractive to teams with championship aspirations. It’s possible that West opts-out of his final year, especially if he is traded to an unfavorable destination. If the Pacers hang on to him, or he is traded to a contender it’s unlikely that anyone is going to offer more than $12.6 million for West. However, there is always the chance that West trades in his final $12.6 million in exchange for a few more guaranteed years in the NBA.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks – $9,500,000

There is no doubting that Paul Millsap outplayed his contract last year. The problem for the Hawks is much like Marc Gasol and Kevin Love, the only way for Millsap to reset the finances is to hit unrestricted free agency. This becomes a problem for Atlanta, mainly because that means potentially losing him for little or nothing in return.

Given that Millsap recently choose Atlanta in free agency and that he’s had success there, they may have the inside trade on keeping him, but with so many teams expected to have cap space can the Hawks risk losing such a solid asset?

That’s going to be the question they have to debate this season and one of the reasons the Hawks have been linked to so many trade scenarios.

Millsap looks to be one of the better free agent options in July and unfortunately for the Hawks there is not a lot they can do about it, given where Millsap’s contract is currently priced.

Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets – $15,719,062 (option worth $16.74M)

It is highly likely that Lopez opts-out of his existing deal, even with the chronic foot injuries he has endured. When healthy Lopez is one of the top centers in the game and with just one-year left on his deal he likely opts for the chance at a new payday and long-term security, even if that means re-upping in Brooklyn.

Like many of the other potential free agents, this puts the Nets on the clock on a number of fronts. There is the threat that Lopez could walk away and the question of what is he really worth in trade?

If Lopez can pick up where he left off before the injury last year there is a really good chance he could be one of the more coveted free agents in the 2015 free agent class and he might be obtainable too.

Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers – $14,898,938 (option worth $15.51M)

Like Lopez, Hibbert has a decision coming up. The problem with Hibbert is he hasn’t exactly played up to his contract, but elite level big men are hard to find and they are usually overpaid.

There has been some talk that the Pacers would entertain trading Hibbert, although Pacers sources were pretty adamant that was not the case, but with the Pacers’ season is very much up in the air and the risk that Hibbert could opt-out and walk away means the Pacers have to explore their options, especially with the gruesome Paul George leg injury.

Like most players with one year remaining on their deal, it’s likely Hibbert forgoes $15.51 million in exchange for more long-term money. The question is who invests in him given his production as of late?

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers – $11,440,123

Like Paul Millsap, Jordan has outplayed his current contract. It’s very likely that DeAndre re-signs in LA with the Clippers on a new max level, or near max level contract. This is where the depths of the new Clippers ownership’s pockets is going to pay off.

Like all potential unrestricted free agents, Jordan could walk away, but considering the Clippers will put the money on the table and the success the team has had as currently constructed, the odds that Jordan hits the market in a real way are slim. The problem is that he has to hit free agency to get the raise his camp is seeking. So, there is risk for the Clippers, but all sides have been fairly clear they want the marriage to continue.

Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers – $6,124,729

Like Millsap and Jordan, Lopez has outplayed his contract, which means he too will likely have to hit unrestricted free agency in July in order to get his contract re-set on par with his performance. This poses some risk for the Blazers, but all indications are that both sides want to continue to the relationship. It’s simply going to cost the Blazers more than the $6.1 million Lopez is set to earn.

Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets – $13,500,000 (option worth $13.5M)

Like Millsap it’s very possible that Jefferson opts-out of his deal simply to cash in under new terms. Given the success Jefferson has had in Charlotte, it seems unlikely that he’d leave, but whenever a player hits unrestricted free agency there is risk.

Jefferson recently chosing Charlotte in free agency bodes well for a new long-term deal, however with Jefferson’s season last year he might be in line for a hefty new deal and that becomes a question mark for the Hornets on whether they’ll go to near max for a player who will turn 30 this season.

If Jefferson posts another All-Star worthy campaign like last season, the odds are very good he’s hitting free agency in July, if only to cash in again.

Notable Extension Eligible Players

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves – $4,660,479 (Qualifying Offer $6,179,795)

The Wolves and Rubio have been talking for most of the summer. As you can imagine Rubio’s camp has some substantial leverage given the Love situation and they are seeking a max deal for Ricky. The Wolves and Rubio have until October 31, as do all of the players and teams listed below, to reach an extension and it seems like the might.

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors – $3,075,880 (Qualifying Offer $4,210,880)

Thompson was talked about a lot this summer as someone the Warriors were unwilling to part with. The question becomes is he someone the Warriors are willing to pay? Both sides have had some contract talks and that discussion is expected to pick up steam as training camps get closer. There has been a lot of talk that Thompson is seeking a near max level extension and that seems unlikely given the $12 million Steph Curry earns. It is likely that Thompson and the Warriors do not reach a deal before the deadline, unless he comes off his asking price. Restricted free agency seems more likely, especially with all the changes the team has made on the coaching front.

Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks – $3,553,917 (Qualifying Offer $4,790,680)

It is unlikely that the Bucks and Knight reach an extension unless it’s a landslide in Milwaukee’s favor. Both sides have talked and the Bucks say they want to keep him so a deal is very possible. It’s going to come down to the math and that may not get decided until this summer.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets – $2,249,768 (Qualifying Offer $3,257,664)

Its not out of the question that the Nuggets and Faried reach an extension, it just unlikely. Word is Faried wants a monster contract and while he has shown some moments that might justify it, his body of work is not on par with the near max money his side is said to be seeking. Faried’s situation likely gets resolved in restricted free agency if he is not traded first. His name has been kicked around a lot in trade scenarios.

Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic – $2,380,594 (Qualifying Offer $3,394,727)

Harris’ camp wants a new deal this summer and the Magic have agreed to talk about the subject, but given where Orlando is at in their rebuild committing a huge number to Harris seems unlikely. Although, there is a sense that if the Magic make a reasonable market-based offer, Harris might take it.

Word is Harris is atop a number of team’s wish list, so if the Magic don’t want to pay him this summer, there is a strong chance he gets a sizable offer sheet next summer.

The Magic would be bidding against themselves in a deal now, so it’s unlikely an extension gets reached, but it does seem like Harris’ camp is open to one if the Magic will come with the right kind of offer.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs – $2,894,059 (Qualifying Offer $4,045,894)

Can you say max offer? That’s what it’s going to take to get Kawhi Leonard signed this summer and that number seems a little unlikely considering the only player the Spurs have ever given the max to was Tim Duncan. That’s not to say that the reigning Finals MVP isn’t worth it, especially consider what guys like Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons got.

Both sides seem open to a deal, the question becomes for how much? Even if Leonard gets to free agency in July, its fair more likely that the Spurs match offers than let him go, the question is do the Spurs want that in their locker room this year? The Spurs cap position allows them a lot of room with regards to Leonard and his eventual payday. Do they lock him in now or does it have to play out next summer?

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic – $2,751,260 (Qualifying Offer $3,865,520)

Like Harris, the Magic are talking extension with Vucevic, and also like Harris the Magic are in essence bidding against themselves. There is a chance that a deal gets reached this summer to start locking in core pieces, but given that Orlando doesn’t have to set a price today, there is a bigger chance that both Vucevic and Harris hit restricted free agency and let the market place set their price after seeing what both contribute in a season that should be about winning games.

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

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