August 12, 2013
In the current climate of a league obsessed with salary-cap space and contract details, at times the letters “NBA” have seemed to stand for “National Basketball Accounting,” or perhaps the “National Business Association.” That was a harsh lesson Anthony Morrow experienced first-hand during the 2012-13 season, when he was traded twice, primarily due to financial reasons.
One of the NBA’s premier perimeter shooters, Morrow ranks fifth among 400-plus active players in career three-point percentage (.424). But that impressive line on his hoops resume didn’t stop him from going from Brooklyn to Atlanta to Dallas last season, all in a seven-month span.
After signing with the New Orleans Pelicans in mid-July, the shooting guard hopes he’s found a long-term home. Morrow began his career in 2008 with Golden State, making New Orleans his fifth NBA team.
“A lot of what’s happened in terms of me changing teams has been business things,” Morrow said. “I liked the opportunity to play (in New Orleans) and I’ve always liked Coach (Monty) Williams. I’d always heard good things about him and I liked how he carried himself as a coach. I just want to come in and contribute as much as I can, and continue to play my game and add what I bring to the table to a young team. I feel like we’ve got a really good chance of making the playoffs.”
As a result of a string of wrong-place, wrong-time circumstances, the 27-year-old has yet to reach the postseason over his five years in the NBA. After going undrafted in 2008, the Georgia Tech product was a surprise success story during his first two pro seasons with Golden State, including being selected to play in the Rookie Challenge Game in 2010. Morrow left the Warriors in the summer of 2010 to sign a three-year free-agent contract with New Jersey, but was later included for salary-cap reasons in the 2012 blockbuster Joe Johnson trade with Atlanta. As the owner of an about-to-expire contract, he was traded to Dallas midway through 2012-13. He played sparingly for both the Hawks and Mavericks, finishing last season with a total of just 41 games and 383 minutes, career lows by a substantial margin.
“It was just one of those things where it was a numbers game, and you end up playing behind some guys that the coaches thought they wanted to go with,” Morrow said of his unenviable situation in Atlanta and Dallas. “It wasn’t like they were planning to have me (on the roster). I was just one of the guys they could (possibly) try to fit in. But in terms of playing and getting opportunities, there was nothing there.”
When Morrow explored his options in free agency this summer, one objective was to find a place where he’d have a chance to earn a rotation spot, something he’d done in each of his first four NBA seasons. After discussions with Williams and Pelicans GM Dell Demps, Morrow believed New Orleans was an excellent fit.
“I saw that they had a vision and a plan for me,” Morrow said. “I haven’t really had that since I left New Jersey. It was tough going through those things, where you’re not a part of something you feel like you should be part of – when you’re working hard, but not getting an opportunity. Now I feel like it’s a clean slate and I’m on a very good team. I feel like we have a legit chance to make the playoffs.”
“He’s a guy who probably hasn’t gotten a fair shake the past couple years,” Williams said. “But he can flat-out shoot. He loves the gym, which is something we value. He’s got some toughness about him, and will knock down big shots. He’s going to be fighting for minutes at that backup (shooting guard) spot. We’re looking for a big-time battle between he and Austin (Rivers), and some of our other wings.”
With Morrow and recent USA Basketball participant Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans now have two of the game’s most feared long-range shooters. Morrow and Anderson competed against each other in the 2012 NBA three-point contest at All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
“He’s a great guy and a great addition,” Anderson said of Morrow. “He can really light it up. He’s a guy that can come in the game and make a huge impact. Obviously, the more shooters on a team the better. I think we can really balance off each other well. To add another scorer, another outside presence, kind of takes some of the pressure off of me.”
The current Pelicans player Morrow is most familiar with on a personal level is Al-Farouq Aminu, an Atlanta native. Morrow was a college teammate at Georgia Tech of Aminu’s older brother, Alade Aminu.
“I used to see him really shoot that ball, and I remember how hard he’d get on himself when he missed,” Al-Farouq said. “I can see how it paid off for him. He became an excellent shooter. I’m happy that he’s on the team.”
For his part, Morrow is excited about joining a team that has upgraded its talent this summer, particularly with the additions of penetrators and offensive creators like Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Morrow – who ranks behind only Stephen Curry, Steve Novak, Steve Nash and Danny Green in active career three-point percentage – knows he may receive many wide-open looks in 2013-14.
“When you’ve got guys who can get to the rim like Jrue, Tyreke, Eric (Gordon) and Austin, who can not only finish, but also draw attention, it’s going to open up a lot,” Morrow said. “It’s going to complement my game and Ryan’s game. I think we’re going to complement those guys as well, with what we can do. It’s going to be nothing but good things for the team overall.”