NEW YORK — Marcus Morris repeatedly said he’s happy to be with the New York Knicks. He has a definitive role with his new club as the starting small forward and a team leader. He still has love for the Celtics, even though he feels the club didn’t have love for him.
Morris left the Celtics after two years, signing a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks after initially committing to the San Antonio Spurs. But one team he didn’t hear from during the free agency period was the Celtics, and he expressed disappointment.
“Surprisingly no. I didn’t get a phone call, I didn’t get anything from Boston,” he said before the Celtics defeated the Knicks, 118-95, on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. “It was very surprising, but I guess that’s the business. My two years there were special. I thought I did a lot for the team. I thought I at least deserved a phone call. I’m happy here, ready to go.”
Morris finished with 12 points and seven rebounds against his former team. Prior to the game, he hugged several Celtics officials, including assistant coach Jerome Allen and director of security Phil Lynch.
“It feels good man, I still keep in contact with a couple of [the players],” he said. “It’s a little weird, but it is what it is. I’m in New York now. I’m happy. I like it. Boston always has a place in my heart, but you know how it goes.”
Morris was at the center of a controversy during his free agency when he apparently reneged on the Spurs, who had made a trade to clear salary cap space and execute the deal. Morris then parted ways with agent Rich Paul and signed the deal with the Knicks that was for less time, but more money.
“That’s the NBA — you think certain things are going to be there, but [they’re] not,” he said. “You gotta make a decision on your own. It’s cool. I’ll get through it. I’m happy to be here, excited to get the season going.”
There were some unpleasant words between Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and the Knicks, whom he felt circumvented the agreement with Morris by making an offer. Morris and Popovich embraced after the Knicks’ season-opening loss to the Spurs. All is well between the two now, according to Morris.
“We had a conversation afterwards so it was kind of surprising, some of the things that were being said, but you know how the media is,” Morris said. “Once you don’t really break up the names, it can go any type of way. That’s what happened. Me and Pop have a great relationship.”
Morris was especially close to forward Jayson Tatum. He mentored the third-year standout and joked that his departure meant Tatum “could shoot 20 shots now.
“I’m happy for him. I’m happy to see him grow, especially I’m happy I was part of his career for two years and teach him some things and excited to see how good he could be.”
Morris has embraced the challenge of turning things around in New York. The Knicks haven’t reached the postseason in six years and aren’t expected to this season. Morris will be a free agent again next summer, but he’ll focus on the present and helping the Knicks reach respectability.
“New York is a rebuilding thing. All we’ve go to do is win a little bit and we’ll have a great crowd every night and the city is behind us,” he said. “I’m happy to be here and they’re just as excited for me to be here as I am.”
“I love my coach [David Fizdale], he’s different. I hadn’t played for a guy like him yet, so he gives me all the energy he gives me and all of the confidence.”
With Daniel Theis out with a sprained left ankle sustained in the first half on Friday, rookie center Tacko Fall was placed on the active list. The 7-foot-5 Fall made his NBA debut in the fourth quarter, collecting 4 points on a pair of dunks and adding three rebounds in 3:38 of playing time.
The Celtics were already without Enes Kanter with a sore left knee, reducing the number of healthy legitimate centers to Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier.
Celtics rookie Grant Williams had played several minutes at center in Friday’s win.
Fall has turned into a fan favorite since joining the Celtics on an Exhibit 10 contract in July and drew plenty of support from the Madison Square Garden crowd.