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Gregg Popovich sees a lot of Dave Cowens in Aron Baynes

San Antonio’s Pau Gasol tries to find some room to squeeze between Aron Baynes (left) and Jaylen Brown under the basket in the first half Monday night at TD Garden.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

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Celtics center Aron Baynes spent his first three NBA seasons with the Spurs, from 2012-15. When San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was asked Monday about his memories of Baynes’s time with the Spurs, he joked that he would remember his unusual haircut most of all.

But then he turned more serious and offered a flattering comparison.

“This is a little bit of a stretch, but he’s like, for all you guys and gals, he should make you think of Dave Cowens in a way,” Popovich said, referring to the former Celtics star. “Obviously, he’s not in that league, but his hustle, his desire on every single play, his aggressiveness, his physicality, all that sort of thing, it always reminded me of Dave. And on top of that, he’s a great teammate, great sense of humor, really enjoys playing. He’s a great guy to have on a team.”

Baynes said he wasn’t very familiar with Cowens’s impact in Boston, but he was appreciative of the compliment. He added that there are some similarities between Popovich and Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

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“They both understand the game really well,” Baynes said. “They have their X’s and O’s on point, but they also understand the players and put the players in the right situation.”

Praise for Stevens

It has become a bit of a TD Garden tradition for Popovich and Stevens to pour praise on each other when prompted, and Monday was no different. But first, Popovich offered some more comic relief.

When it was relayed to the Spurs coach that Stevens had just finished gushing about him, Popovich quipped: “I don’t think that much of him, but I’m glad he thinks well of me. I enjoy that because I want to be larger than everyone around me. I enjoy making them smaller.”

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Then Popovich was asked a question about Manu Ginobili, but before he answered he turned the focus back to Stevens to give a more serious answer.

“He is a special person, on and off the court,” Popovich said. “He’s very intelligent and intelligence is fine, but if it doesn’t come along with incisiveness, judgment, and an emotional maturity, it doesn’t do you much good. He has all of those things and that’s large. Not that many people have that. It shows in the way he handles people and the way he coaches. He’s going to be a great one before it’s all over with, and he’s already a hell of a coach.”

Morris runs with Maine

Celtics forward Marcus Morris took part in a full scrimmage with Boston’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, and appears to be getting closer to making his Celtics debut after missing the first seven games with knee soreness.

Morris said he played about 30 minutes and that his knee felt good afterward. He said that if it was his decision he would have played against the Spurs on Monday, but it is not his decision, and he said it was unclear whether he would be allowed to play against the Kings on Wednesday night.

“Whenever they think I’m ready, that’s when I’m gonna play,” Morris said. “I’m not gonna put a date on it, because what I feel as a competitor is just wanting to get out there and play. and it might not be right for me or the team.”

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Morris said it’s been difficult to sit and watch, but the Celtics’ play has made the wait less grueling.

“This is my first season where I’ve [been out] this early or had an injury,” Morris said. “It’s different, but I praise our team. We’re playing really well, defending the hell out of teams. Our young guys are coming along and playing really well and I like how it’s going.”

Bird heads north

The Celtics assigned guard Jabari Bird to the Red Claws. Bird is playing on one of Boston’s “two-way contracts” that will allow him to spend up to 45 days with the Celtics.

He was called into action against the 76ers on Oct. 20 when Marcus Smart was sidelined with a sprained ankle, and Stevens said he considered using the rookie in the two games after that, too.

“He and [two-way player Kadeem Allen], we’ll maximize that as well as we can,” Stevens said. “Now that Smart is back and playing, knock on wood, those guys will be with Maine until we need them.”


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.