This is the first in our series of Player Report Cards, in which we evaluate and assign a grade to the performance of each member of the 2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers. We begin at the bottom - in relevance, at least, if not in salary or comedy value - with Adam Morrison.
Has any player in NBA history done less in the course of winning back-to-back rings?
Adam Morrison was traded to the Lakers on February 7, 2009. Over the season-and-a-half that followed, he appeared in 41 games total and only two in the playoffs. His aggregate playing time with the Lakers, regular and post-season combined, comes to less than 300 minutes. Essentially, out of every four games he was on the Lake Show's roster, three he spent either inactive or nailed to the bench, and in the fourth he'd be given seven or so minutes of garbagio time. At no point in his Laker career was Morrison involved in a moment of any on-court significance.
For all this, the Lakers paid him roughly $6.9 million. That's absurd, clearly, but it's not Adam's fault. By all accounts, he's a hard worker and an exceedingly nice dude. He's never complained about minutes, or about anything else for that matter. He's never caused problems in the locker room or done anything to embarrass the organization. His only sin is being terrible at basketball. That he's been grossly overpaid is the fault of Michael Jordan, who selected him third overall in the 2006 draft, and of NBA scouts who, as a group, failed to see how poorly the game Morrison flashed at Gonzaga would translate to the pros. Adam did well enough in college to fool the people who cut the checks. Through a modicum of skill, some hard work and a goodly measure of luck, he's become a rich guy at the expense of even richer guys. I have difficulty being outraged by this.
If Morrison himself has been of no importance to the Lakers, the same can't be said of his distended contract. Taking on Morrison's salary allowed the Lakers to deal Vladimir Radmanovic for Shannon Brown. Shannon was a critical player in the Lake Show's 2009 playoff run, during which he made 48% of his threes, and although he couldn't capture the same magic in the 2010 postseason, Shannon was still a useful backup at times this year. As for Radmanovic, he's due to make $6.9 million in the upcoming season, an unholy amount for a guy who hasn't been close to league average since about 2006. The Golden State Warriors, and not the Lakers, are on the hook for that $6.9 million, all thanks to the Morrison trade. Without AMMO and his conveniently expiring contract, in other words, there might not be a Steve Blake in purple and gold. Conceivably, there might not even be another year of Phil Jackson.
On those rare occasions when he got some burn as a Laker, Morrison displayed the full panoply of weaknesses. He doesn't have the quickness or handle to get himself decent looks, and when he does get a shot off, he's not very good at getting the ball through the hoop. For a guy who made his reputation in college as a Larry Bird-caliber shotmaker, his shooting numbers (a 41% Effective Field-Goal Percentage and 42% True Shooting Percentage in 2009-10) are unacceptably bad. You can still find scouts to rave about his stroke, but as a Laker he made just six of 25 three-point attempts. There's really no indication that he could serve as even a Steve Novak type, someone who does nothing but stand around the arc and wait to drain an open three. Morrison is a shooting specialist who can't shoot. On defense, the situation isn't any prettier.
What was Morrison's signature performance this year? Oh, there are so many to choose from. There was that time in early November when he lit up the Hornets with five points and two rebounds. And then that time in early December when he lit up the Hornets again, this time with six points. We all remember where we were on those special nights.
The best AMMO moment, however, was most certainly on January 3rd, when he got a full 12 minutes of run and rocked the house for six points on 3-for-3 shooting. Even better, he proved himself a master of psychological warfare in his crafty interception of opponent high-fives.
Celebrate made free throws on your own time, fool!
For all his limitations - and really, AMMO is nothing but limitations - it's impossible for any Laker fan to carry ill will toward Morrison. He was never on the court for any crucial moment, so he never had the chance to disappoint us. We'll always remember him as the lovably befacial-haired mascot of the Taco Unit. There are worse fates for professional athletes.
When you're among the top three picks in the draft, it takes a lot to get run out of the league, and it appears that Adam hasn't yet reached that point. He's been in Vegas this week working out with teams, and according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Morrison could well stick with the Wizards.
Coach Flip Saunders worked Morrison through a series of individual shooting drills on Monday morning and from observers, Morrison displayed the same stroke that led Michael Jordan to select him out of Gonzaga with the Charlotte Bobcats' third overall pick in 2006. . . . With Saunders's flex offense and No. 1 overall pick John Wall's ability to drive and kick, Morrison could possibly help spread the floor and create space.
Uh huh. I'm sure John Wall can't wait to ball with AMMO. It's this keen eye for talent that's had the Wizards averaging 33 wins a season for the past decade.
Look, if Morrison can trick another team into paying him to be horrible, more power to him. Washington's as good a place as any, I guess. I just hope that when the Wizards come to Staples Center next year, the Lakers drop an epic pounding on them. That way, we'll get one more chance to see AMMO come off the bench as the 12th man in Taco Time.
Player Grade: D-, but the most affectionate D- ever awarded.
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