The Celtics looked poised to start the regular season on Tuesday with a fully healthy squad as recently as Saturday, but that situation changed abruptly on Sunday. Brad Stevens announced the team would be holding out projected starting forward Marcus Morris for at least 10 days in order to rest an ailing right knee.
Morris had played the final game of the preseason in Charlotte on Wednesday, scoring seven points in 11 minutes against the Hornets. However, the team clearly wasn't comfortable with what they had been seeing from him in practice following his late arrival at training camp. Morris admitted last week he came to Boston out of shape after his lengthy assault trial in Arizona as he mentioned he wanted to lose seven pounds before opening night.
"With him getting here a little bit late, we feel like he needs a little more of a preseason," Stevens said. "He will most likely be out here for the coming week-plus, and then we will re-evaluate after that. They've done all the testing, and structurally, the knee is in good shape. But I think it is a quick turnaround to get here last week and play in a regular-season game. It's going to be a little bit of time probably before he hits the court again."
The extended early season breather for Morris comes as a bit of a surprise given his track record of being an NBA iron man. The 6-foot-9 forward sat out just 11 combined regular-season games over his last five NBA seasons, making durability one of his most appealing attributes to a team like Boston when they acquired him from Detroit in July.
The Celtics did have some coaches out with him in Arizona during his trial for training sessions but it would be understandable if his mind was focused elsewhere (i.e. on the court proceedings) and that limited his conditioning during September.
Either way, the Celtics are playing it safe with the 28-year-old former Piston for now, which is opening the door for Jayson Tatum and other Celtics to make an impact over the first two weeks of the season.
With Morris set to be re-evaluated in 10 days, it's safe to guess he will miss at least the first four games of the season (@ CLE, vs. MIL, @ PHI, vs. NYK). With Jayson Tatum and Aron Baynes expected to share starting five duties in the frontcourt over that stretch, Stevens is going to have to look further down his bench for some help.