Scott Morrison won back-to-back Atlantic Division titles in his only two seasons as head coach of the Maine Red Claws.

His reward?

Another season in Maine.

“It’s a mixed message,” Morrison said with a laugh. “You’re doing good enough to keep your job but not quite good enough to be promoted, I guess.”

Morrison held court Tuesday at the Portland Expo as the Red Claws opened training camp in preparation for their eighth NBA Development League basketball season. Sixteen players are in town. Ten can be on the active roster when the Claws begin play Nov. 11 in Oklahoma City.

“It’s the same old story in the D-League,” Morrison said after the workout. “I think you’ve got to set your goals to improve and develop players. As we’ve seen the last two years, we’ve done really well and gotten to the playoffs, and then our team has been much different by the time the playoff rolls around.”


Indeed, the Claws have yet to win a game in the postseason, swept in each of the past two years in part because point guard (and former league MVP) Tim Frazier was on the roster in March and snatched in April by an NBA team (first the Trail Blazers, then the Pelicans, for whom he still plays).

“There’s so much movement,” Morrison said, “that it’s hard to look ahead.”

Morrison’s wasn’t the only familiar face at the Expo on Tuesday. Guard Coron Williams and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum returned from last season’s roster. Guard Jason Calliste, who played in Latvia last season, was on the 2014-15 squad. Between them, they have three career starts for the Claws.

Three players who took part in the training camp of Maine’s NBA parent Boston Celtics are on the team as affiliate players. Jalen Jones is a 6-foot-7 forward from Texas A&M, Marcus Georges-Hunt a 6-5 guard from Georgia Tech and Damion Lee a 6-6 guard from Louisville.

They, with Abdel Nader, a 6-6 forward from Iowa State who was chosen by the Celtics in the second round of the June draft (58th overall) but never signed an NBA contract, are likely to see the most playing time.

“We’ll try to help all of these guys get better,” Morrison said, “try to put them in position to be successful and to look good, and hope that in a year’s time they’re better players and have a chance to advance their own careers, which we’ve been pretty successful with so far.”


The four Celtics affiliate players who opened last season with the Red Claws – Corey Walden, Levi Randolph, Coty Clarke and Malcolm Miller – all signed to play overseas this season for much more money than they would receive in the D-League, which caps salaries at $26,000. And that’s only for top-tier players. The rest make $19,500. Each of the 22 D-League franchises (up from 19 last season) has a salary cap of $209,000.

Walden is playing in Belgium, Randolph in Italy, Clarke in Russia and Miller in Germany.

Omari Johnson, a two-year Red Claws stalwart, signed with a team in Lithuania.

Another second-round Celtics draft pick, point guard Demetrius Jackson from Notre Dame, is likely to spend significant time with the Red Claws, similarly to Terry Rozier, who played 14 games for Maine last season while remaining on the Boston roster.

Aside from Jackson, Morrison said there hasn’t been much talk about other Celtics heading up I-95 to play for the Claws.

“James (Young) and Jordan (Mickey) are always welcome,” he said, “or whoever else they deem necessary.”


Nader was born in Egypt but moved to Illinois with his mother and sister at the age of 3. He said the Celtics probably drafted him with the plan of stashing him overseas – similar to what they did with Marcus Thornton last season in Australia – “but I ended up playing really well in Summer League,” he said, “so it kind of made a tough choice for them.”

Had the Celtics signed Nader, brought him to their training camp and then failed to put him on their 15-man active roster, he would be a free agent.

By him agreeing to play for the Red Claws, the Celtics are able to retain his draft rights for two seasons.

“At the end of the day they didn’t have many roster spots,” Nader said, “so this is just the way it worked out.”

Jones, Georges-Hunt and Lee all spent a month with Morrison and the Celtics’ staff in NBA training camp in Waltham, Massachusetts. Jones played Summer League with Toronto and Georges-Hunt with Brooklyn before signing with the Celtics.

After Tuesday’s workout, Lee took notice of the Expo banners heralding former Red Claws called up to the NBA.


“It’s rewarding to see that there’s a chance,” he said.

“I’ve had a dream of becoming an NBA player. To me, it doesn’t matter where I start my journey; it’s more how I finish it.”

A red-white scrimmage is scheduled for Sunday, after which final cuts are likely.

Georges-Hunt, who graduated in May from Georgia Tech, said he spoke with Red Claws (and Yellow Jackets) alums Mario West about playing in Portland.

“He said it’s a great place, great fan base, great people, great city,” Georges-Hunt said. “He had a great time up here.”

Another piece of advice came from members of the Celtics who had spent part of their winter with the Red Claws.

“A lot of people told me,” he said, “I need a big coat.”


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