WALTHAM — It’s Operation Uncertainty yet again for MarShon Brooks, who hoped to find a home in Boston and show the skills that made him a first-round draft pick two years ago.
Instead, the Celtics did not pick up the fourth-year option on Brooks’s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent after this season. And he was one of two active players — along with guard Keith Bogans — not to play in Wednesday’s season-opening loss in Toronto.
Brooks was hoping to perhaps even start for the Celtics, but he’s buried behind Jeff Green and Courtney Lee at shooting guard. The fact Brooks didn’t register a minute at a time when new coach Brad Stevens is evaluating lineups is telling.
And it prompted a meeting Thursday morning between the two. Brooks wants to play and Stevens is stressing patience.
“It’s tough but I feel like this year, at some point, I’ll have the opportunity to make an impression,” Brooks said following practice. “And when I get my opportunity, it’s a little more pressure, but I think with the summer I had, everything will work out for me, honestly. I’m not really worried about it. It’s a little bit more pressure to perform, but I’m excited, honestly.”
Brooks went through a similar situation with the Nets the last two seasons. As a rookie, he played 56 of 66 games during the lockout-shortened season, starting 47 and averaging 12.6 points, earning second-team All-Rookie honors.
Last season under P.J. Carlesimo and Avery Johnson, Brooks’s playing time decreased dramatically, from 29.4 minutes per game to 12.5, as he was considered a defensive liability.
“I’ve been doing what I need to do to get more minutes. I’m right there. I met with Coach and he just wants me to stay positive,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately, I’ve been in this situation before and I know how to handle it. I am not going to get mad at anybody. I’m with the team. When my opportunity comes, I just have to make sure I’m level-headed and ready to play.
“Last year, I got caught up at being mad at Coach, mad at the rotation, and then when it was my opportunity to play, I’m playing against myself. So I’m just going to stay level-headed, cheer on my teammates. If it comes Game 5 or Game 15 or Game 20, I know I’m going to get my opportunity. It’s definitely going to be tough if I get to Game 20 and I haven’t played an NBA game in a while.”
Stevens acknowledged having a meeting with Brooks and said it was productive.
“I told MarShon, ‘Don’t get down and don’t measure your progress or your confidence based on how much you play right now,’ ” Stevens said. “His opportunity is right around the corner and I think he’ll do well when that opportunity comes. He’s been really much better the last two weeks of practice. And you’ve seen him in spurts where he can really score the basketball. If I had to give my evaluation of MarShon, really improving and easy to coach.”
The Celtics announced Thursday that they picked up the third-year option on Jared Sullinger’s deal, and he will make his season debut Friday against the Bucks after missing the opener because of a one-game team suspension for his arrest on domestic violence charges.
Sullinger watched the loss to the Raptors with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge at the Celtics’ practice facility.
“Everything that he sees, you pretty much see,” Sullinger said. “It was definitely being in the principal’s office after school. He was one great principal, though. He’s similar to Tommy [Heinsohn in reaction], I know that much. It’s typical Danny Ainge.”
The Celtics were pounded on the boards in the opener, being outrebounded, 48-33, including 19-7 on the offensive glass. The Raptors scored 28 second-chance points.
“Rebounding is my forte,” Sullinger said. “That’s what I pride myself on. That’s what really stood out.”
Sullinger was limited to 45 games last season because of back surgery and this will be his first regular-season appearance since Jan. 30, when he left a victory over the Kings with back spasms.
“I definitely have a little bit of nerves going into this game, especially coming off of back surgery,” he said. “Now it’s the real deal. It’s everybody’s full squad going to head to head, so I’m a little nervous, but I think I’ll conquer it.”
Stevens said Sullinger is going to play.
“We’ve had trouble gaining any separation throughout our roster and so it will be interesting to see whose minutes he eventually plays because it could go a number of directions,” Stevens said. “He can rebound. He can shoot. He can pass. He can play, has a nice IQ to him. He can get guys off the glass. That would have helped [Wednesday] night.”