Over the last month, Markieff Morris has gotten a ton of credit for how he stepped up as a starter while Anthony Davis and LeBron James were both out with injuries. Morris’ strong play was instrumental in the Lakers managing to go nearly .500 over their time without both James and Davis before the latter’s return pushed the twin back to the bench.
But to hear Morris tell it, he was never worried about his slow start, something he made clear to Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register:
“I mean, (expletive), look at my production throughout my career,” he said in an interview with Southern California News Group this week. “I would think they would know I could be this consistent. Everybody’s trying to judge you off of how the season starts, but the tide always turns.”
Morris told Goon that the Lakers’ Davis and LeBron-less stretch actually helped him find his rhythm after a rough opening to the season:
“I know how this works, and for me personally it was definitely a blessing that helped me get into shape and helped me get my legs under me,” Morris said. “Without having an offseason like I’m normally used to having, I thought I would start slow. … I’m not panicking over the preseason or first quarter of the season. I done got to the top of the mountain; none of this counts.”
That story dropped on April 18. Since then, Morris has gone 0-21 from three in the last five games. I point this out not to criticize him, or to blame the feature for “jinxing” him or something like that. I highlight it as a reminder that just like the tide can turn for the better for role players, it can also turn for the worse. That’s the nature of the position.
Why is this important to note? Well, because just like things swung the wrong way for Morris starting a game before Davis’ return and his ensuing demotion back to the bench, his mindset makes it clear that he’s not going to get in his own head about it, and that we can be confident his shooting will eventually swing in the right direction again, given a little time. Morris credited “a consistent role” for his success, and while his minutes may get a little less predictable while going back to the bench, there is also reason to believe that once he acclimates to his new reality, he’ll shoot (and play) better than he is right now. That he can’t shoot worse than 0-21 is almost besides the point.
Morris could have gotten more money from other NBA teams in free agency this summer, but chose to take less to return to the Lakers instead and try to help them defend their title. Nearly every single thing he’s said all year has matched his actions, making it clear that this title chase means as much to the competitive veteran as any player on the roster. Even when he’s not playing, his hard-nosed, old-school brand of confidence have been a key leadership element in the locker room.
With all that in mind, Morris deserves some patience. The Lakers need to be better down the stretch, Morris included, but as we saw last season, when the games really matter and Anthony Davis moves to center, there are few frontcourt partners more perfect for him on this team than Morris. Even if he’s struggling right now, his earlier stretch is a reminder of how skilled and important he can be for this team when he’s rolling and in the right matchups.
Or to paraphrase Morris: We’ve seen him at the top of the mountain, and we know he brings it when it counts.