Morrison regaining his game and his swagger
After his rookie NBA season in Charlotte, all Adam Morrison wanted to do was get a glimpse at what people were saying about him. He wanted to make a brief visit to the blogs to gauge his progress through their eyes.
Seattle Times staff columnist
LAS VEGAS — After his rookie NBA season in Charlotte, all Adam Morrison wanted to do was get a glimpse at what people were saying about him. He wanted to make a brief visit to the blogs to gauge his progress through their eyes.
He wasn't expecting rave notices. As the third overall pick in the 2006 draft, Morrison had averaged a solid, but unspectacular 11.8 points per game. But neither was he expecting what he got.
Even though he was named to the all-rookie second team, Morrison got whacked on the Web. And as much as he tried to convince himself that those opinions didn't matter, to him they did.
"A lot of people were saying that I was terrible, one of the worst picks of all time," Morrison told a small gathering of reporters outside the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room after a recent NBA summer-league game. "I got a lot of criticism after my first year."
His curiosity became his enemy.
"I thought I played good the first half of my rookie year," he said, "but I remember one Web site saying I was the worst player in the NBA and all that stuff. I heard all of them. It was tough to swallow."
Morrison never got the chance to prove his critics wrong. He tore his left ACL and missed all of his second NBA season. And last season, Bobcats coach Larry Brown never gave him an honest shot before trading him to the Lakers. Morrison played just 44 games, including eight in mop-up roles with the world champions.
"To get hurt and not have a chance to prove myself just made things worse," he said. "I think some of it [criticism] was just fans who never really liked me anyway. That's fine. That's part of the business. I understand that."
After Morrison came to the Lakers, general manager Mitch Kupchak told him he didn't figure in the team's plans for the 2009 playoff run. Kupchak ordered Morrison to get the knee healthy, learn the triangle offense and prepare for the 2009-10 season.
This summer the Lakers already have lost Trevor Ariza, and Lamar Odom is doing his best to negotiate himself out of town. There could be minutes and shots available next season for Morrison.
"All we wanted to do was get him in peak condition for training camp, so he can show us what he can do," Kupchak said. "Get your strength back in your core. Get your knee back to 100 percent and use this summer to get ready. It's an important year for him and he's getting a lot out of this."
Morrison, who turned 25 on Sunday, came to Las Vegas at Kupchak's suggestion. In four games for the Lakers he averaged a team-high 20.6 points. He found a way to get to the rim. He made his open jumpers, and he looked comfortable in the triangle.
"He's playing like a veteran," Kupchak said.
Morrison played with the same confidence and authority he had as an all-American at Gonzaga. He said his knee is "as good as it's going to get," and his game appears to be following his knee's lead.
"He walks around like he's 85 years old," said Lakers summer-league coach Chucky Brown, "but when he gets the ball in his hands, it gets his body activated."
Morrison, however, said that rebuilding his confidence hasn't been easy and the swagger he had at Gonzaga hasn't fully returned.
"I knew I wasn't really going to be a go-to guy in the NBA," he said. "I knew I wasn't going to be like I was in college as far as being the best player on the team. I mean, this league is filled with so many talented players.
"My goal was to find a role and play my role well. It is different. But a lot of guys have to make that adjustment — going from the best player on your team to just another guy."
In the narrow corridor underneath the Thomas & Mack Center, Morrison treated every question seriously. He rarely made eye contact, but he was thoughtful and disarmingly open when he discussed his hoop future and his insecurities.
"I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to come back and stick in the league, which I still am," he said. "I still don't have another contract, so I have to continue to work and hopefully, something will work out for me. This is my contract year. If I don't perform well, I may not be in the league.
"I want to find a role somewhere. Hopefully, it's with the Lakers. I want to be part of a winning team, and I think my confidence started to come back when I was traded to the Lakers, when I started wearing purple and gold. To be part of a winner is pretty special.
"A lot of people left me for dead. A lot of people said I couldn't play. That I was done. And the Lakers have given me a chance to get healthy and I get a chance, hopefully, next year to prove that I can play."
It was surprising to listen to Morrison talk about the beating he took in the blogs. Surprising that he took those critics seriously. But now, with his confidence replenished, maybe Morrison can forget about the blogs and just ball, the same way he did at Gonzaga.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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