ORLANDO, Fla. – Three years ago, it would have been college basketball’s version of Kobe vs. LeBron.
J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison were sharpshooters on the court, friendly rivals off it. A meeting for the championship between college basketball’s biggest superstars would have been a ratings bonanza, the kind the NBA was hoping for in these finals, but there are no puppet commercials for these guys.
Both have minor parts on the big stage, something Morrison would have had a hard time predicting during their glory days.
“No, if you asked me that three, four years ago, whatever it was, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said.
Morrison was sure to remain parked on the bench Tuesday night when his Los Angeles Lakers tried to extend their 2-0 lead over Orlando. Redick gets in the games for the Magic, but he rarely knows for how long.
That’s certainly not what was expected from two guys who were lighting up the NCAA from opposite coasts in the 2005-06 season, Redick for the powerhouse Duke program, Morrison for the smaller Gonzaga one that had proven it belonged with the big boys.
Those days are long gone, and Redick has no need to relive them.
“I don’t spend any time really thinking about Adam. I don’t lay up at night, ‘I wonder what Adam Morrison is doing?’ ” Redick said. “I don’t really care. He’s a friend. I’m more worried about what I’m doing, what this team is doing.”
It’s easy to be team-first guys, because both enjoyed more individual attention during one season than some get in their entire careers.
Morrison averaged 28.4 points in ’05-06, edging Redick for the scoring title but was beaten out by the Duke guard for the AP Player of the Year award.
“Looking back, too, it was a little overwhelming just the amount of coverage that we got,” Morrison said. “It was cool, but in the same sense it was almost overbearing. It turned into kind of something that didn’t need to be happening as far as just me and him. It wasn’t about our teams and what other teams were doing that year.”
They still chat occasionally, but not much recently. Morrison said when they do talk, it’s not about basketball – understandable, given neither has much to discuss.
Morrison was picked third in the draft by Charlotte and averaged 11.8 points as a rookie. But he missed the entire 2007-08 season after tearing up his left knee in an exhibition game. He quickly fell out of coach Larry Brown’s rotation as he struggled this season, then was dealt to the Lakers on Feb. 7 along with Shannon Brown for Vladimir Radmanovic.
Getting out of Charlotte was good for Morrison, but he realized he wouldn’t play much for a Lakers team that was a title contender with a set rotation. He hasn’t appeared in a postseason game after playing in just eight after the trade, but insists he’s happy with the Lakers and is learning from watching his teammates.
“I think he’s going to be fine. He had a bad injury his second year, he went through a trade this season, so this is kind of his second season,” Redick said. “He averaged double figures his (rookie) year. I don’t think you can really judge a guy after two or three years, so I think he’ll be in this league.”
Redick went to the Magic eight picks after Morrison, but his career started slowly after a back injury. He played in just 76 games his first two seasons before earning a more regular place in the rotation this season, appearing in 64.
However, the sporadic playing time has robbed Redick of the shooting stroke that produced an NCAA-record 457 3-pointers. He’s played in both finals games after getting in just once in the last round, and was on the floor for 27 minutes in Game 2. But he was only 2 for 9 from the floor and had a costly turnover in the Magic’s 101-96 overtime loss.
Morrison still expects success for Redick, who got frequent time earlier in the postseason while Courtney Lee was injured.
“I thought when I watched some of the Boston series, he did a great job defensively on Ray Allen at times,” Morrison said. “Yeah, I think he can be an effective NBA player. You can’t replace guys that can throw the ball in the basket and space the floor, especially in this league, so I think he’ll be fine.”