CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Larry Brown arrived in Charlotte to find Adam Morrison tentative and lacking confidence as he recovered from knee surgery.
Soon the veteran coach said he was dealing with an unhappy player, weighed down by high expectations, who wanted out.
As Morrison returned to Charlotte with the Los Angeles Lakers ahead of today’s game against his old team, he and Brown expressed satisfaction in the Feb. 7 trade that brought Vladimir Radmanovic to the Bobcats.
“I was happy Adam got to leave because he was never comfortable here,” Brown explained.
Said Morrison: “The writing was on the wall. There were no hard feelings. Larry has a certain type of guy which fits his mold and I just didn’t fit his mold.”
But so far the move has done nothing to end the doubts of his NBA future.
The Lakers made the deal to dump Radmanovic’s salary, not make Morrison a rotation player. Morrison, who will receive $5.3 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract, has appeared in only five games since the trade, the last a week ago when he was held scoreless in 5 minutes against Oklahoma City.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be when managing partner Michael Jordan used the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft on the Spokane native and Gonzaga star with the shaggy hair, thin mustache and high-scoring resume.
Morrison struggled with his shot and the spotlight as an NBA rookie – acknowledging he let the pressure get to him. He missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in an exhibition game.
When he returned last fall he had a new coach who stressed defense – his weakness – and he fell out of the rotation even as the Bobcats were losing.
“His agent was calling. His dad was upset,” Brown said. “I had spoken to him a few times. And I can understand it. The one thing, when you’re on a team that’s struggling, all you want to do is play.”
As Morrison averaged only 4.3 points on 36 percent shooting from the field, the whispers grew louder: He was another draft bust in Jordan’s checkered history as an executive.
“He told me everybody had high expectations for him, but hey, you’re the third pick in the draft, that’s just the way it is,” Brown said.
Morrison was fighting other psychological battles, too, struggling to trust his surgically repaired left knee.
“The thing that bothered me was I felt like I couldn’t get it all the way back right away,” Morrison said. “Maybe some of that is on me, for what I did in the off-season. Maybe I didn’t rehab it as much as I should have.
“It feels pretty good now. I’m just happy to be on such a great team. The guys are cool, too.”
After giving teammate Luke Walton directions to the weight room at his former home arena after a lengthy practice Monday, a relaxed Morrison indicated the trade was a good thing.
The Lakers have clinched the top seed in the Western Conference in their quest of an NBA title. Morrison knows he’ll see little time in the postseason, but thinks he’s still better off after losing favor with Brown.
“Who am I to say he’s wrong when he’s a Hall of Fame coach?” Morrison said. “I’m just thankful they gave me another shot.”