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Trial over, Marcus Morris free to focus on Celtics

Markieff (left) and Marcus Morris, a forward with the Cetlics, arrive at Superior Court for the second day of their aggravated assault trial Setp.19. The twin brothers were aquitted Tuesday, and Marcus is returning to the team for the rest of training camp and the preseason. Matt York/Associated Press

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On Thursday the Celtics will finally be whole as Marcus Morris, acquired in the deal for Avery Bradley, will participate in his first official practice with the team.

Morris and his twin brother Markieff, of the Washington Wizards, were on trial the past two weeks for assault charges in Phoenix. Both were acquitted Tuesday, and Marcus told an Arizona Republic reporter his first priority was to get back to Boston and join his new teammates.

The Celtics have been keeping close tabs on their new power forward. Assistant general manager Michael Zarren made multiple trips to Phoenix to offer support while the club also sent two staffers to work out Morris and introduce him to the offensive and defensive schemes.

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So while the six-year veteran missed the opening preseason game and first 10 days of training camp, he is familiar with the system.

“It’s a big relief to get him back,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “Hopefully being a veteran player he’ll get caught up pretty quick. That will definitely help that he’ll be familiar with some of our terminologies, for sure.”

Celtics fans haven’t seen much of Morris since he joined the club in July. He spoke with the media through a conference call. He missed media day because of the trial. He played the past two seasons with the Detroit Pistons as their starting small forward, averaging 14 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2 assists in 79 games last season.

He was an especially tough matchup on small forwards such as former Celtic Jae Crowder because of his length (6 feet, 9 inches) and his ability to hit midrange jumpers. What’s more, Morris hit 46 percent of his shots between 16 feet and the 3-point line, giving the Celtics another midrange weapon.

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“Marcus is a veteran player who can make shots; you can run offense through him,” Ainge said. “He can defend his position. He’s a tough, physical player.”

Morris’s physicality may be the key to his success. The Celtics lost an enforcer when they traded Crowder to the Cleveland Cavaliers but Morris has a reputation as an NBA tough guy, an imposing player who won’t back down, regardless of opponents. Inasmuch as the Celtics acquired talent Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, they desperately need a more physical presence in the paint.

Aron Baynes, also a former Piston, showed no fear of being rugged and pesky in his preseason debut. The Celtics are hoping the same from Morris.

“Marcus is a guy who can defend some of the better players in our league at the wing position,” Ainge said. “And he can guard guys who are bigger and stronger than him. He’s a bigger version of Marcus Smart in some ways. He brings an element of toughness that we need.”

Morris is penciled in as the starter at power forward. During the preseason opener, Celtics coach Brad Stevens went with Baynes at center, Al Horford at the power forward with Jaylen Brown at small forward, Hayward at shooting guard and Irving at the point.

The Celtics were a more effective team last season with Horford at center, so there could potentially be a shift with Haynes coming off the bench or being a spot starter depending on the matchup. Morris’s agent, Dan Brinkley, told the Globe that his client is ready to get started.

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“He is really excited,” Brinkley said. “The Celtics did a great job of supporting him the last couple of weeks. They had someone going over stuff with him. He’s excited about his new opportunity. He is all about team. He’s a locker room leader but he’s not a talker. He does it by example. He doesn’t do a lot of talking but when he does talk, people tend to listen because he’s serious about wanting to win.

“If you don’t want a fiery, competitive player who’s going to push the other team’s button if necessary to get a ‘W’ then you shouldn’t bring him in. He’s all about the gritty play and he doesn’t back down to anybody.”

The Morris brothers were on trial for a Jan. 15 assault against a former mentor for which two defendants had already pleaded guilty. The Celtics realized the trial could carry into training camp and a guilty verdict could have resulted in a 10-game suspension from the NBA. But a non-guilty verdict means Marcus heads to Celtics camp with a clean slate and no potential for suspension.

“As always they were supportive for each other,” Brinkley said of the brothers. “And it was just something they had to stand on on principal because they didn’t do anything and they weren’t going to be bullied into paying someone just to avoid a trial.

“He’s excited about getting to know the Boston fans, playing at the Garden because every time he went there it was super loud, so he’s excited about that portion.”

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It will take some time for Morris to get integrated but he has an opportunity to make a major impact on this team with his midrange shooting, defense and toughness. Celtics fans lamented the loss of Bradley, as they should have, but Morris will be a factor for the club this season. He’s an understated player with a lot of skills and his low-key mentality fits right into Brad Stevens’s system.


Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.