Anthony Morrow off to fast start in preseason
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
In recent interviews, Monty Williams has paid Anthony Morrow one of the best compliments a shooter can receive. New Orleans’ fourth-year head coach noted that Morrow’s teammates and coaches are virtually shocked whenever one of the 6-foot-5 guard’s attempts fails to find the bottom of the net.
“Every time he misses a shot, we kind of look at ourselves like, ‘Did he miss?’ ” Williams said. “Because he’s such a good shooter.”
“I completely agree with that,” Pelicans center/forward Jason Smith said. “He has proven himself as a knockdown shooter.”
Although it’s only been a miniscule sample size of two preseason games, it continues to be a surprise when Morrow doesn’t connect on one of his long-range attempts. In narrow road victories over Houston and Dallas, the sixth-year pro averaged 18.5 points and is shooting 60 percent (6-for-10) from three-point range. He opened the exhibition schedule with a team-leading 26-point performance against the Rockets.
Not a bad start for a player who was readily available on the free-agent market this summer, after a 2012-13 campaign in which he barely played. Morrow appeared in a total of 41 games last season with two different teams, Atlanta and Dallas. The Mavericks acquired him at the 2013 trade deadline from the Hawks, but only used him a total of 82 mostly mop-up minutes in 17 appearances.
“I thought he was going to get a multi-year deal,” Smith said of Morrow’s 2013 free agency. “I was very surprised (he did not). But we’re happy to have him here. He’s a hard worker, a smart player. I think it’s going to be a good situation for him here. The coaching staff has confidence in him.”
“It’s a blessing to be here and have this opportunity,” Morrow said of coming to the Pelicans. “My experience here has been great so far. I’m buying into everything we’re doing. Everybody’s humble – we don’t have any egos on this team.”
Other than a dearth of playing time last season, if there was one thing that prevented Morrow from generating more interest as a free agent, it was his reputation as a pedestrian defender. Williams is focused on developing Morrow into a more complete player, which could greatly impact his long-term status in the NBA.
“For me, I want him to continue to focus on the defensive end, because that’s where he’s going to make some money,” Williams said. “That’s icing on the cake for him.”
Few of the league’s players can compete with Morrow’s shooting resume. The 28-year-old Georgia Tech product ranks fifth among all active players in career three-point percentage (42.4). In 2008-09, he became the first rookie in history to lead the league in three-point accuracy (46.7). He also had been particularly problematic for New Orleans to defend, shooting a scorching 67.7 percent on treys (21-for-31) in his career against the then-Hornets.
“He’s somebody where you have to know where he is at all times,” Smith said of facing Morrow. “He’s very good at getting himself open, either getting behind the defense or running in transition for threes. He can also make the mid-range jumper. The way he shoots, I think it just goes to show his hard work.”
Indeed, it’s been common early in his Pelicans tenure to see Morrow staying after practice to launch three-pointers, even though it sometimes seems as if he’s already mastered the skill. He methodically moves to different spots beyond the arc and calmly drains 10-plus consecutive treys. Prior to Monday’s game, a few of Morrow’s ex-Mavericks teammates from 2012-13 warmly greeted him, saying they were glad to see the 2012 All-Star three-point contest participant receive a greater opportunity to play. With Eric Gordon sidelined temporarily until mid-preseason, Morrow has started both Pelicans preseason wins (he started once during the ’12-13 regular season).
“I’m glad to come in and help the team in any way I can,” said Morrow, whose most important stat so far may be his average of 31.0 minutes. “I’m just happy to be here, happy to be part of this culture.”