Talking with: Adam Morrison, Part I
It would be something of an understatement to say Adam Morrison was a legitimate college basketball
phenom during his final season at Gonzaga, capturing the nation's attention while averaging an NCAA best 28.1 ppg, topping 30+ in fourteen games and 40+ in a quintet. Folks also seemed to dig the long hair and 'stache, which added personality to an already colorful story of success while controlling diabetes. It would also, however, be something of an understatement to say that the transition to the pro level hasn't offered quite the same riches.
The rap on Morrison was that he didn't possess the athletic ability needed to rack points at the NBA level. Michael Jordan, the new part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, felt the kid's heart and competitiveness would offset any deficiencies, and pushed to select Morrison as the 2006's third overall pick. As of now, Morrison hasn't done much to erase the notion that MJ may be the game's all-time greatest, but can't evaluate talent to save his life. After a solid enough start to his rookie campaign, Morrison slowed considerably over March and April, then sat his entire sophomore campaign with an ACL tear. From there, it's been sluggish. Morrison quickly fell out of new Bobcats coach Larry Brown's favor, then eventually got dealt to the Lakers with Shannon Brown last February for the similarly out of favor Vlad Radmanovic.
How he'll fare with in L.A. is a murky proposition. It's not exactly a well kept secret that the Lakers made the swap in large part to shed Radmanovic's contract for one that runs a year shorter. And with Morrison's deal set to expire next season to the tune of five mil (unless a team option is picked up), who's to say he'll even be part of the '09-10 equation? But to some degree, that's all irrelevant, because no matter where he plays, Morrison is just looking to reestablish some footing. In the first part of our talk, we discussed matters ranging from what what wrong in Charlotte, being a scorer and the rookie wall. Here's what he had to say.
Andrew Kamenetzky: What do you think accounted for your struggles in Charlotte? Adjusting to the next level? The way you were used? The situation?
Adam Morrison: I think it was a little bit of everything. I had a good, probably, fifty games my rookie year, I was playing well. And then hit the wall, I think. Then some of the way I was used, kind of just a "standing shooter/standing in the corner" type of deal. But some of that's on me. They gave me a fair chance to play well and then obviously, coming off an injury, it was a little bit different.
AM: Coming into the NBA, I moved around a lot (on the floor). I didn't really do that in Charlotte, so that was a little bit different. But like I said, they gave me a fair chance and most of it's on me.
AK: As a rookie, is it even possible to approach a coach and say, "I think you could make better use of me?" Or is it a situation where you have to keep your mouth shut?
AM: I don't think you can really say that as a rookie, but (then-coach/General Manager) Bernie (Bickerstaff) was cool with me the whole time when he was there, so I don't want to put any blame on anyone but myself, because I'm the one out there.
AK: Coming out of Gonzaga, the expectations for you were huge. You were really one of the primary stories in college basketball that year. Was it in any way difficult dealing with those expectations?
AM: I don't think it was hard. It was more or less tiring, after a while, going through the pre-draft, playing a lot of minutes in college, and then, like I said, I kind of hit the wall. Wasn't prepared physically, I guess, and a little bit mentally for the NBA season that first year. So that was tough.
AK (joking): It almost might have been better if Gonzaga hadn't done so well in the tournament. You could have gotten a little extra rest.
AM: I wouldn't say that, but just the rookie quote-unquote "wall."
AK: And the injury set you back, too, I'd imagine.
AM: Well, yeah. An ACL injury is pretty serious as far as basketball is, but this is the season after, so you're always a little bit slow to recover after that.
AK: How much truly harder is it to play at this level? You were an elite player in college and basically able to score from wherever you wanted.
AM: Well, if you look at the guys' athletic ability, obviously, it's the best players in the world. That definitely has a part to do with it. And it's a different game. Shorter shot clock. Different players. That type of stuff.
AK: Was there anything specific about those changes that was tough to adjust to?
AM: You can prepare physically all you want, but just the everyday factor of it as a rookie. You can't do really understand until you go through it. So that was the biggest thing for me.
AK: Do you still see yourself as that pure scorer from college, or do you look at your career in the NBA and say, "I may need to be used differently?"
AM: You know, obviously, I've proved before my injury that I can score at a decent level, but I'm just trying to find my way anyway I can. If that means being a role player, being whatever, it doesn't matter to me. Being in this league is a blessing.
AK: Do you eventually have to say, "it doesn't matter if I was the #3 overall pick? That's all done. I just need to help my team."
AM: I never really (cared). I was over that after the first season.
Part II to come later...
Photo: Adam Morrison shoots over Paul Pierce, which will make any Laker fan happy. Credit: Elsa / Getty Images file