SEASON REVIEW: Morris got off to a strong start, leveled off and then went into a mid-season lull. Over a month that began in mid-December, Morris averaged just 10.9 points and 3.6 rebounds as a shooting slump – he shot .327 overall and .242 from the 3-point arc – seemed to spill over to other areas of his play. Morris rebounded with a strong six-week stretch that saw him average 17.4 points and 6.6 rebounds on strong shooting: .457 overall and .366 from the 3-point arc. It’s no coincidence that the Pistons went 4-11 during Morris’ month-long struggles that began in mid-December and 11-7 over the six-week stretch surrounding the All-Star break that began with a mid-January road win against the Los Angeles Lakers.
LOCKER-ROOM LEADER: An area of concern for the Pistons entering 2016-17 after snapping a six-year playoff drought the previous season was replacing the veteran voices lost to free agency in Anthony Tolliver, Joel Anthony and Steve Blake – the only 30-and-over players on the roster. Stan Van Gundy felt Morris exuded strong leadership qualities, not for his vocal exhortations so much as his selflessness, accountability and palpable investment in winning. In early March, with the Pistons fighting for a playoff berth, Van Gundy went to Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to request they use their voices a little more among teammates.
CAREER HIGH: Morris ended February with a memorable performance in an overtime win over Portland at The Palace, scoring a career-high 37 points and showing off his all-around game in the process. He hit 13 of 23 shots and scored both inside and out – shooting 3 of 7 from the 3-point arc but going inside often enough to wind up 8 of 9 at the free-throw line. Morris topped it off with eight rebounds and six assists, as well.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Morris has two years left on a contract that he carried with him to the Pistons from Phoenix that qualifies as team friendly in the extreme in today’s market. He’ll earn a reported $10.375 million total through the 2018-19 season and will be No. 9 in salary among current Pistons if no one is traded and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is retained as a restricted free agent. Morris played almost exclusively at small forward for the Pistons in 2016-17 with the free-agent signing of Jon Leuer, but he is capable of playing power forward should off-season roster moves shuffle the deck.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It was ugly. Sometimes, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. (Teammates had) probably never seen me like that. I felt like we responded really, really, really well. They took it the way I hoped they would take it. I didn’t talk down to anybody. I was just trying to motivate and get us right. These people deserve us playing hard. They deserve to see us come out and compete every night. … When you put your cards on the table like that, I have to respond a certain way. So I took a lot of responsibility on myself and my team. They responded exactly like I thought they would.” – Marcus Morris after his tirade during a timeout in the first quarter of a March 9 win over Cleveland when the Pistons trailed 27-12.