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Adam Morrison doesn't expect the Lakers to keep him but appreciates teammates' support

June 28, 2010 |  5:00 pm

Many members of the Lakers gathered around the set of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," basking in the glow of their championship. But Kimmel wanted to crack a joke at one of their teammates' expense.

"Where is Adam Morrison because he was in a suit pretty much the whole time," Kimmel cracked. "I thought it'd be funny if he came out in a uniform for once."

The Lakers on set -- Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell -- partly played along, laughing to Kimmel's joke that Morrison looks like a 70s'  porn star and appeared engaged with watching a clip highlighting Morrison's contributions in the Finals. The reel consisted of various zoom-in shots of him sitting on the bench, high-fiving a teammate or jumping up and down on the sideline after a huge play. The Lakers' reaction could've been a lot stronger and the insults would've been largely welcomed since Kimmel wanted to generate laughs. Even though Bryant acknowledged the clip was "funny as hell," he used the opportunity to share how much Morrison  meant to the team.

"That's a testament to our team, honestly, because Adam can really play," Bryant said. "He can really,  really go. For him to take a step back and to do things like that really helped us get to that championship level."

Morrison appeared in only 31 games, averaging 2.4 points on 37.6% shooting in 7.8 minutes. Morrison also acknowledged he doesn't think the Lakers will keep him once he becomes a free agent Thursday, saying, "I didn't play so I don't know why they'd want to bring me back." But Bryant's public support made Morrison feel appreciated.

"It was tough not playing as much, at all, really," he said. "But being part of the team was fun and being with the group of guys that we have is cool."

Morrison has battled plenty of frustrations in the NBA after a storied career with Gonzaga, including finishing as a finalist for the Naismith and the Wooden Award and being considered one of the nation's top college basketball players along with Duke's J.J. Redick. After the Charlotte Bobcats selected him with the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, Morrison exposed his defensive liabilities, suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2007 and soon became part of a trade package that sent him and Shannon Brown to the Lakers in exchange for Vladimir Radmanovic. Though Brown's future with the Lakers is uncertain, he etched himself into the rotation and became a fan favorite for his acrobatic dunks. Morrison etched himself with a bland wardrobe, wearing the same predictable brown suit on the sideline,  and became what he called "the butt of jokes" on late-night television.

"I laugh it off, I guess. I don't know why that guy has always picked on me," Morrison said of Kimmel. "For some reason, I think maybe I didn't go on his show when I was first coming out. I honestly don't know. He's trying to make a TV show, whatever. The guys know what I brought to this team."

Morrison brought up how he often matches up with Bryant and Artest in practice, and he said the two remarked to him his effort in practice helped prepare them for the game. Teammates have touted him as one of the funniest guys on the team. And Morrison shared how he made sure to maintain a positive attitude, knowing it was the only thing he could contribute with his playing time limited.

It is hard to tell exactly what Morrison brought to the team given many of his efforts are difficult to quantify. He's touted as the team's jokester, but when a reporter, noting Morrison's Rage Against the Machine T-shirt, jokingly asked him "If he's mad at Sasha," Morrison didn't play along. When I asked him to cite any examples of what he did to help lighten the team mood, he said, "Just stuff that shouldn't be in print or on camera. I'll save myself the embarrassment." And viewing his practice battles with the starters is difficult to document since the majority of practice is closed to the media.

That doesn't matter to Morrison. He surely wants a bigger opportunity and doesn't want to have to play in the Vegas summer league to prove his worth, but the majority of his exit interview entailed his gratitude for playing for Phil Jackson, getting two championship rings and learning from among the league's greatest players. And with an NBA career that hasn't gone exactly the way he's wanted to, Morrison's glad he has some positive aspects to latch onto during his time with the Lakers. And that includes the support of his teammates.

"I've seen all aspects of the game and it's definitely changed me as a person," Morrison said. "This experience here, even though I wanted to contribute more on the court, was great. Great teammates. Great guys. Great organization. Great coaches. I couldn't ask for anything else. Coming here from Charlotte, I was pretty down on myself and just the game in general. With the guys and how they treated me here, it made me feel a lot better as a whole."

--Mark Medina

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