Wherefore art thou, Morrison?

As you can tell from the title, this is not necessarily a Rockets post, so be warned.

So I'm reading TDS, and I come across this line from Tom, hypothesizing (sarcastically, to be sure) about the Jazz's eventual pickup of:

the former Vanilla Villain himself, Adam Morrison

Now, I laughed my ass off at the line. But, this brings up one very important fundamental question:

What the hell happened to Adam Morrison?

Join me after the jump on a quest (no experience points here-sorry) to undercover the legend of the man they used to call "Spokane's Most Wanted."

Of all the college players I have been lucky enough to see live or on television, I have five favorites.

Darvin Ham broke the backboard in the first college game I ever watched, so he's in. Then comes Kerry Kittles. I loved Skittles as a kid, so you can see why we bonded. And he was damn good, too. Antawn Jamison would not be stopped at North Carolina. He could take over any game and just make everyone look silly. And Kirk Hinrich (sorry Tom) never missed a single shot in college. I swear he didn't. And then there's my all-time favorite, Adam Morrison.

Admit it: the first thing you think of when you think of him is this iconic moment. It's crazy, because no one else has ever cried when they lost. Oh wait. Tim Tebow did it. So did Roger Federer. As did the Master of Flops, Cristiano Ronaldo. So I get the crying thing. The porn-stache, not so much.

Everyone remembers the breakdown. When you're up by 17 in the second half, you're supposed to put the game away. It was, indeed, Heartbreak City.

People also call him a bust. Selected third overall by the Bobcats, Morrison had a pretty good rookie season. Coming mainly off the bench, he averaged 12 points per game on 38% shooting. In his second year, he tore his ACL and missed half the season. But just for a second, let's go back to the domination he exhibited in college.

Gonzaga was already an up-and-coming mid-major when Morrison committed out of Mead High School in Spokane, and even then "The Big Vanilla Earthquake" wasn't a prized recruit. Type 1 diabetes makes coaches run away, and a white unathletic-looking forward doesn't inspire confidence.

But "The Great Mustachio" showed up anyway, and became a legend at a school that once had some player named John Stockton. As a junior, he averaged over 28 points a game. For those who believe that this was a product of weak competition in the West Coast Conference, Morrison actually played better against teams from the major conferences. As tough as it was to watch a west coast team that consistently started games around midnight central time, it was damn near impossible to consistently watch Morrison, who nevertheless put together one of the most impressive individual seasons ever. 

It started with 43 points in a triple-overtime win over Michigan State in a preseason tournament. I was lucky enough to catch Onions! (Gus Johnson makes everything better) and his demolition of USF. But one of the greatest feats I've ever seen was 37 in 20. Those are video game numbers, and some of those shots are so sick-nasty that he needed antibiotics afterward to recover. In the tournament that season, people don't remember that the team was down late against both Xavier and Indiana in the first two rounds. "The Mustachioed One" saw double and triple teams in both of those games (along with a couple of clotheslines), but he still somehow brought the Zags back.

I guess it's because I've seen how amazing he was in college, but I just can't let it go. How does such a potent player disappear in the NBA? It's easy to say, "Well, he can't play defense or pass," but Chase Budinger and Mike Miller are examples of guys will almost identical skill sets on offense. Kyle Korver is a better shooter on offense, but his complete lack of defense makes Morrison look competent on that side of the ball. He's an underrated passer and could be a decent rebounder if some assistant coach cared enough to show him how to box out. His assist-to-turnover ratio (~2) isn't awful by any means, and he's only 26.

Plus, for those who put stock in Jermaine Taylor's Summer League performance as evidence that he can be a real scorer in the NBA, here's another tidbit: Morrison dominated the Summer League last season. He averaged over 20 points per game and shot the ball extremely well. It's hard to be an elite player during the summer with the constant substitutions and the plethora of athletes. Yet, the unathletic Morrison was the second best player at the event, behind only Blake Griffin.

Morrison did have the misfortune (for him) of having to play under Larry Brown. Brown is one my favorite coaches in the NBA, but he isn't the kind of guy who can take rookies who don't play defense and make them into stars. He thrives on a nitty-gritty style of play, and holding opponents to one shot per possession. Morrison couldn't fit the bill, so Brown shipped him the first chance he could get.

The Lakers didn't need Morrison. The had dumped Vladimir Radmanovic, a player very similar to Morrison, to get him. They already had Trevor Ariza, and when he needed a blow, Lamar Odom generally slid down to the small forward position. The Lakers really needed a good defender at the other wing to complement Kobe, but Morrison couldn't do that. That's not ever going to be his game.

It's easy to look back now with hindsight and judge Morrison. He should have stayed for his senior year. His diabetes would hold him back. He was overhyped (the Larry Bird comparisons were ridiculous). However, if he had stayed in school, we would have called him an idiot. He was coming off one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history, and you should always take the sure thing in college. Just ask Craig Brackins.

It seems to me that Morrison's biggest problem is self-confidence. As in, he doesn't have any. Most of his quotes read like this (all quotes from Andy Kamenetzky's great piece on ESPN Los Angeles):

"I've been called one of the worst five picks of all time. That kind of stuff. You just gotta live with it. Nothing you can do about it."

"It's tough mentally to try to stay positive."

"I don't believe (that any team is interested in me) until I sign with somebody," he insists.

Sounds to me like a man who has given up on himself.

But he's trying:

"I think I could be a really good sixth man," suggests the forward. "I know I could still score. I've done it my whole life and I did it even in practices with the Lakers. You can ask any of the guys." (For what it's worth, various Lakers constantly praised Morrison's ability to push starters during practice. As Odom insisted, "Leave him open and he'll embarrass you.")

You didn't have to have the Inner Eye (sorry) to see that the Lakers wouldn't pick up Morrison's team option of over $5M this season. So, now he's roaming the land trying to find a job. Mike Miller got the MLE in Miami. Even Shaq got a spot in Boston. Is there any room for the Stache?

Yes there is. AND, he's gonna be dirt cheap. Like LLE or veteran's minimum cheap. He'll ask for more, but that's probably the range in which a team will probably get him. It'll be embarrassing for him, but if he can show the league that he can still ball, there are tons of teams that will overpay to get him. Here are some teams he could fit with this season:

The Raptors have a ton of shooters who can't play D. What's one more?

The Nets could use anyone with two legs.

Pretty much everyone on the Knicks sucks.

The Celtics lack a shooter behind Ray Allen (yes, I know they have Von Wafer now).

Name five players on the 76ers besides Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. Exactly.

The Minnesota Timberwolves signed Darko Milicic for $25M more than he's worth. Yes, he should be paying them to let him play. Maybe if I started a "FreetheStache" site, we could make this happen.

I hear they need a small forward in Cleveland. Just sayin'...

Indiana is white guy central.

The Wizards have worked him out. It would give John Wall someone to pass to on the perimeter.

The OKC Thunder are paying Nick Collison and Morris Peterson $13.5M this season. And Sam Presti is a genius why? OK, I know he is, but just go with it.

Tell me the Clippers couldn't use him. Oh, it would be fun to see Morrison school Artest in some random game in January. And if the Clippers have money for Brian Cook, they have money for Morrison. And me, for that matter. Medical school isn't cheap, you know.

Not only that, but almost all of these teams have more than enough money to pay him and still be under the salary cap. Way under. Of course, we have a lot of dumbass owners in the league. That's one of the reason's why we'll probably have a lockout.

And no, I don't want Morrison here. We already have his better in Chase. But, assuming we didn't have Chase, and we could get "Ammo" for 2 yrs-$4M, would you say no? I wouldn't.

Oh, and Morrison has more championship rings than Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh combined. Also, I have about twenty nicknames ready for him, so for the my sake he's gotta find some work.

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