Success whets Morris’ appetite for more as he gets back to work earlier than ever

Marcus Morris served as the anchor of Stan Van Gundy’s bench unit much of last season for the Pistons.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

ORLANDO – Success can affect those who experience it in nearly as many ways as there are members of the club. But it usually breaks down into two main camps: it makes you fat and sassy or it whets your appetite for even more.

Count Marcus Morris in that second group. You might even want to make him the captain of that second group.

After playing a record high in career minutes in his first season with the Pistons – more than 800 beyond his previous high, or the equivalent of about 17 full NBA games – Morris decided he needed to start his off-season workout program even earlier this summer. He wants to be stronger next season, for … well, you’ll love the reason.

“I thought I prepared better last year, but I think this year, summertime, I’ve gotten into it earlier,” he said Thursday night after fitting in an individual workout before watching the Summer League roster log its fifth practice in three days. “I’ve been working right now and I think once we get past that first round next year, I think I’ll feel better.”

It would be one thing if a guy said “once we get past that first round …” and then spent the off-season touring the world’s best beaches. But Morris has been working out back home in Philadelphia with a little time in nearby Washington, D.C., where his twin brother Markieff was traded last February.

He spoke on the eve of NBA free agency and was hopeful the Pistons could fortify themselves through that process. But Morris isn’t counting on any reinforcements. He’s putting the onus on his own shoulders.

“I’m looking to get better. I feel like I’ve got to go to another level for the team to go to another level,” he said.

And how does he make that happen?

“Being more efficient. Toward the end of last season, I feel like I fell off a little bit on defense. I’ve been watching a lot of film and breaking down my shot a lot more. Improving my handle.”

That’s the drum Stan Van Gundy has beaten since last season ended – that the greatest area of growth potential for the Pistons would be in the internal improvement of their young core. Morris is the oldest of the bunch at 26.

Their youth was another reason Van Gundy was so eager for the Pistons to experience the playoff drive last season and to see it end in a playoff berth. Beyond the obvious reasons, he felt living that experience would pay dividends next season and beyond.

Morris, after having a few months to absorb and process it, emphatically agrees.

“For sure. The feeling I got in the playoffs – I’m pretty sure they got the same feeling – it just felt great to be out there and doing it for a city like Detroit. For me, that’s kind of like doing it for home. Like I’ve always been saying, Philly and Detroit just have the same type of feel. It felt good. I really didn’t want to get swept, but it is what it is. I promise you next year, we won’t get swept again. That’s for sure.”

The Pistons made Cleveland work despite the four-game sweep, holding leads in the second half of each of the first three games and having a chance to win Game 4 at the buzzer. Morris felt Cleveland was the best team in the league, but never felt the Pistons didn’t belong in their company.

“Cleveland was a great team. I picked ’em to win it. Good team. I just felt like, up until the (Finals), I felt like we gave ’em the best run they had. Even with Toronto winning those two games, I feel like we still played ’em harder. We’re younger. We’ve just got to get in the gym and work harder.”

On the few occasions things went sideways last season for the Pistons, Van Gundy remarked more than once how he admired Morris’ willingness to stand up and hold himself accountable before his teammates. It’s the same mentality he’s taken into the off-season coming off easily the best of his five NBA seasons. Success wears well on Marcus Morris.

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