After the Celtics finished practice Monday afternoon, forwards Marcus Morris and Jayson Tatum had a brief one-on-one battle, with Morris unspooling some crafty veteran moves on the 19-year-old rookie.
Morris has yet to complete a full practice since the season began as he is still bothered by left knee soreness, but his little sparring session with Tatum appeared to indicate that he is getting closer. Afterward, he was asked how he felt.
“It felt pretty good beating a rook’s [butt] one-on-one,” Morris said with a smile.
Morris, 28, took part in the noncontact portions of Monday’s practice session. He said he is targeting Monday’s home game against the Spurs for his season debut. Coach Brad Stevens said that Morris is progressing, but that day is when Morris will likely be evaluated.
Morris was acquired from the Pistons in July in the trade that sent Avery Bradley to Detroit. Morris missed all of training camp last month because he was standing trial on a 2015 assault charge; he was found not guilty.
He said he has dealt with left knee soreness since the preseason, but an MRI revealed no structural damage. He believes he simply may have tried to do too much too quickly.
“But these past couple days it’s been feeling really good,” he said. “I tested it out one-on-one today and continue to gradually go about it.”
Morris said it has been difficult to sit back and watch practices and games, especially with the Celtics looking for reinforcements following Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury that is likely to sideline him for the season. But he has been offering encouragement, instruction, and now even one-on-one tussles, trying to help in whatever way he can.
“We’re going to have some hiccups,” Morris said. “Even with me out there, we’re still going to have some hiccups. It’s a new team, a long season, but I think the more and more we play together, the more and more we find our identity, we’re going to get comfortable with each other and know what each other do, and just let the offense flow.”
Guard Marcus Smart, meanwhile, missed practice Monday with a sprained ankle he sustained last Wednesday against the Bucks. Stevens said Smart has improved and would go through more tests prior to Tuesday’s game against the Knicks. He is considered day-to-day.
On the mend
Stevens said Hayward remains at home as he begins his long recovery from last Wednesday’s surgery to repair a fracture dislocation of his left ankle. He was able to get outside, and the Celtics have been sending members of their medical staff to his home to work with him.
“He’ll start coming [to the training facility] a little bit more over the next few days to get worked on here, to get re-checked here, and everything else,” Stevens said.
Stevens said that when he asked Hayward Friday if there was anything he could do for him, the first thing Hayward asked for was a basketball.
“He might have started that chair shooting already,” Stevens said.
Through three games, Tatum is playing 35.3 minutes per contest. To put that in perspective, no one on the Celtics averaged more than 34 minutes per game last season. But the rookie’s rapid progression combined with injuries to Hayward, Morris, and Smart have thrust him into a prominent role.
Tatum has welcomed the opportunity, but he acknowledged that last week was a grind, as the Celtics played three games in four nights in three cities.
“We played Cleveland and got back at 4 in the morning, then played the Bucks,” he said. “I thought we had the day off and I woke up and we had to fly to Philly. Oh my God, I just wanted the day off.”
His respite came Sunday.
“I slept a lot yesterday,” Tatum said, smiling.