WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Morris wears his city on his sleeve.
Few people are a better ambassador for the city of Philadelphia than the 28-year-old Boston Celtics forward. The Celtics and 76ers will get to renew acquaintances as these two NBA rivals meet in an NBA Eastern Conference semifinal, which begins Monday in Boston.
And Morris can’t wait.
Morris and his twin brother, current Washington Wizard forward Markieff, starred for Philadelphia’s Prep Charter, leading the Huskies to the Public League title and then a second straight PIAA Class AA state championship in 2007.
“I love Philly,” Morris said in a quiet moment by his locker following Saturday’s 112-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 at TD Garden. “I was born and raised there and it is special for me and I enjoy being home.”
Morris, who is from North Philadelphia, will especially enjoy a homecoming when the series resumes in Philadelphia for Game 3 on Saturday night.
A task almost as difficult as beating the upstart Sixers will be filling all the ticket requests.
“Oh lord have mercy, there will probably be 50 to 60,” he said.
During the offseason he spends considerable time in Philadelphia.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) April 29, 2018
“I am really from Philadelphia,” he says proudly. “Some people says they are but are from the outside. but I am really from there.”
Morris, who started 21 games this year, has been coming off the bench, looking to give the injury-depleted Celtics a lift.
In Saturday’s win, the latest injury occurred when forward Jaylen Brown left the game late in the first half and didn’t return with a hamstring injury. On Sunday, coach Brad Stevens said Brown was doubtful for Game 1.
Without Brown, it would place more importance on Morris’ offensive game.
During the series against Milwaukee, Morris averaged 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 27:34 minutes. That is remarkably close to his regular-season totals of 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 26.8 minutes
While Morris has been coming off the bench, he doesn’t view himself as a reserve.
When it was suggested that he thinks of himself as a starter, he quickly interrupted and said, “I know I am a starter.”
That said, he has been more than willing to come off the bench.
“I do what I have to do for the team to win,” he said. “I come off the bench and give us a spark and I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
Boston acquired the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Morris in July from the Detroit Pistons for Avery Bradley and a 2019 second-round draft choice.
“We felt like he could play the three (small forward), play the four (power forward), he can make tough shots, can get his own shot in isolation, which is hard, and he is tough,” Stevens said of Morris. “He is tough minded, plays both ends of the court, likes to compete, likes to work, all the good stuff.”
Morris is also a huge Eagles fans and has frequently worn an Alshon Jeffery jersey around Massachusetts, which hasn’t played well in that area.
“I don’t care, I love the Eagles,” he said laughing.
Back to the court, Morris’ best attribute may be his toughness. If the Sixers thought they encountered a physical first-round team in Miami, Boston, with players like Morris, guards Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier and forward-center Aron Baynes, won’t back down against anybody.
“I expect the series with the Sixers to be chippy because that is how I am,” Morris said. “If they don’t want it to be chippy, it will be either way.”
Of course. he credits his upbringing for his tough nature.
“That is an element, being from Philly, it is instilled in me,” he said. “I can’t help it.”