Any pay raise is going to have to wait until free agency begins in August, but there is no disputing that — as the third-least expensive Laker that the team signed last summer — Morris has been a bargain for this team, especially over the games since James was injured. He knows that, and it turns out that he could have made more than the $1.6 million veteran’s minimum contract the Lakers gave him.
And while Morris told Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register that he wishes he could have made more money in free agency, he acknowledged that the chance to defend his first NBA championship was an opportunity he couldn’t say no to:
Morris was under the impression this offseason that he would get a bigger offer than a veteran’s minimum from the Lakers. He called it “unfortunate” that the Lakers, who are just barely under the hard cap this season, could not offer more and acknowledged that other teams were. But when he weighed the pros and cons, he couldn’t justify going anywhere else.
“I would rather come back home (to L.A.) where they know me,” he said. “We talked about getting more money, and it was supposed to be that way, but even so, the Lakers just fit me best. It’s just a perfect fit for me.”
At 31 years old, if Morris stays healthy and continues his strong year, he should have at least one more chance this summer to get a payday more in line with his production. Whether that will be from the Lakers remains to be seen, but given how good he’s been during this stretch when they’ve needed their role players to step up, they are really, really lucky that he valued winning and fit over money last summer in a career where chances to get the latter are extremely finite.
So no matter how this season ends, no one can accuse Morris of not literally putting his money where his mouth is when he says he’s all about winning.