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Morrison Trying To 'Feel His Way' Into Roster Spot

10/09/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen


    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Former Gonzaga legend and NBA lottery pick Adam Morrison has been given a chance to make the Trail Blazers and get back in the NBA, where he has not played for the last two seasons. After a time away from basketball, the game and two seasons in Europe, Morrison is in Portland giving the NBA another shot after putting together impressive numbers in the Las Vegas Summer League.  
        
    “I’m just trying to feel my way in. I mean, I’m a camp invite guy. I’m just trying to fit in where I can,” said Morrison after practice on Thursday.

    After the final scrimmage of practice, the Trail Blazers spread out to shoot free-throws and some others put up three pointers.

    On the far court, Adam Morrison was rhythmically stroking threes with ease as a teammate passed him the ball around the perimeter. One foot was steady, the other toe would hit the hardwood, he extended the elbow and flicked his wrist to hit several in a row. A process that has been honed over decades of basketball but now Morrison has a new process he is undergoing, that of trying to make the Trail Blazers’ roster.

    When asked if he would retire from the game if he didn’t make the Trail Blazers roster Morrison stated simply “I don’t know yet.”

    As Morrison and I walked to the end of the near practice court, he first jokingly took my note pad to look at questions I had written. He saw the word “Washington,” on the note pad and thought at first that I had confused him for once having played for the Huskies. He looked petrified at first and then laughed with relief after I told him it had nothing to do with the school up north.

    Washington, D.C. was where Adam Morrison was last in an NBA Training Camp after being released by the Lakers where he had been a part of two championship teams. It’s not a surprise that it didn’t even come to his mind when he saw the word “Washington.” Morrison, it seems, doesn’t have trouble with moving on.

    After he was cut, Morrison disappeared. He never lost his love of the game but the last few years in the NBA had worn on him.

    “I don’t think I necessarily questioned my love of the game, I just (was) tired of playing so I decided to stay at home,” he says.

    The team that came calling for the former NCAA All-American’s services was Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. While he was in Serbia, he averaged over 15 points per game, but what made the stint in Europe enjoyable for him was quite simple.

    “I think just playing, minutes. It wasn’t necessarily the offense or anything like that. It was just a chance to play consistent minutes. I hadn’t been able to do that for three or four years, so after a while it gets old,” said Morrison.

    Although playing basketball in Europe seems like an exotic and most likely enjoyable endeavor, Morrison made it clear as to why he left. It wasn’t homesickness or the different culture, it was more about the day-to-day life of a professional basketball player that made him want to return stateside and give the NBA another shot.

    “A lot of people don’t know that in Europe you might not get paid, you practice twice a day, they treat you like you’re an eighteen year-old kid,” Morrison said. “After a while you’re just like ‘alright, this is not for me, I’m too old for this,’”  said Morrison, channeling Danny Glover’s character from the “Lethal Weapon” series.

    Coach Terry Stotts who played a few years in Europe agrees that the routine across the pond is quite different.

    “It’s a different mentality. Most teams, you’ve got a lot of juniors on the team, you might have some 17 or 18 year-olds on your team that need some work,” Stotts said. “Practicing twice a day is commonplace, it is a different mentality and a different approach to the game, to practice and to how teams are managed,” Stotts continued.

    General Manager Neil Olshey told Blazersedge.com that Morrison had to show that he could at least “manage his position on defense,” in addition to be able to contribute significantly on offense.  Morrison knows that he is going to have to grind it out on the defensive end.

    “I’m obviously trying to use my teammates defensively. Know the rotations, know what coach wants, be in the right spots and make the right rotations. I think I can do that,” Morrison said.

    “He’s had a lot of effort, a lot of defense is just about trying and having a commitment,” said Stotts when asked about Morrison. “I see him giving the effort at the defensive end. Everybody is, but I’m very pleased with his effort on the defensive end.”

    Morrison has played with many coaches and in many different systems. LaMarcus Aldridge said on the same day that Terry Stotts’ offense was the most complicated he had been a part of. Morrison has found similarities to previous experiences.  

    “It’s similar to the triangle in the sense that there are no real play calls, it’s all reads. It’s just playing off instinct,” Morrison assesses. “In the triangle it was if one thing happens you do this, and it’s the same thing in the pistol action and motion, so that part is nice.”

    Morrison has experienced what it takes to win a championship and says the little things and sacrifices is what gets teams there, which he says is tough to get guys to do in the NBA.

    “Obviously, win first but you get that greenback that comes with it if you do well and that’s the biggest problem,” Morrison says.

    Morrison has knowledge for younger players and for Trail Blazers players who have not experienced deep playoff runs. However, he hasn’t gone about trying to take anyone under his wing or tell stories.

    “I’ve got to make the team first.”

    Morrison says he hasn’t played as well as he’d like thus far in camp. He knows the stakes and he knows how he got here. He’s in Portland, working, learning and giving it one more honest shot.

    The next and perhaps most meaningful step up to this point in Morrison’s journey to make the team begins Wednesday night when the Trail Blazers begin preseason play in Ontario, California against his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

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