As soon as he was traded last month, Marcus Morris expected things to be different. Just not like this.
Eleven games into his Clippers career, the 6-foot-8 forward has struggled to replicate the shot-making that made him such a sought-after player ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
With the New York Knicks, Morris’ offense was driven by pull-ups, which he made 42.9% of the time, and catch-and-shoot opportunities, on which he shot 47.3%. He took 3.6 catch-and-shoot three-pointers per game and made 46.8% of them. He made nearly 44% of all his three-pointers.
One month since joining the Clippers, Morris is shooting 40% on pull-ups and 31.8% on all catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s taken almost the identical amount of catch-and-shoot three-pointers as in New York — but is now shooting 26.8%. That mirrors his overall three-point accuracy since joining Los Angeles.
Morris missed all nine shots in Sunday’s 112-103 loss to the Lakers, who also pursued him before the trade deadline. After losing him to the Clippers, the Lakers signed his twin brother, Markieff, who proved slightly more productive (four points, five rebounds) in their first matchup in the rivalry.
“I need to be better regardless of what my role is,” Marcus Morris said. “I’m a veteran, a pro. I just need to be better. I didn’t feel like I impacted this game to the best of my abilities, even without scoring, just doing other things.”
That Morris’ points per game have fallen from 19.6 in New York to 9.5 with the Clippers is no surprise. With the Knicks, he averaged nearly 15 shots per game, the most of his nine-year career. The Clippers’ offense is built around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, with Morris often asked to stand beyond the three-point line to help spread the floor. Morris’ decrease in free throw attempts from 3.8 in New York to 0.7 with the Clippers reflects that shift.
But a dip in his accuracy was not expected. He is a 36% three-point shooter for his career.
“It’s tough when you go from a place where you touch the ball probably every possession to every other, every five,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s a role he can do, I have 100% confidence in that, but it takes some getting used to and he will.”
Leaving a team languishing near the bottom of the standings to join a championship contender made the sacrifice a no-brainer, Morris said. He was familiar with the Clippers, having been pursued by the team in free agency last summer. But, last week, he was asked if the adjustment was easier said than done.
“Hell yeah it is,” he said. “But at the end of the day it’s about winning and that’s why I came here, that’s why they brought me here, to win and not worry about my shots. As a competitor, I want to shoot more — what player doesn’t? But at the same time we’re winning games, me playing hard and me doing the smaller things.
“There are going to be opportunities where I can do my thing. But I’m here to continue to help the team and help us push it to that next level.”
Morris’ contributions have not been limited to one end of the floor. Though the Clippers (43-20) pursued Morris in part to field all-shooters lineups in the postseason, they also saw him as a rare all-around player. They were impressed by his ability to defend bigger players and a won’t-back-down competitive streak. Patrick Beverley, who played with Morris in Houston, called the forward a “dawg” who fits with the locker-room ethos.
“When you play for a winning team it’s about sacrificing and giving up to make the team better, and he’s doing that and he wants to win,” George said. “You can see it and you can tell by his approach.”
Still, his rocky transition on offense is now more than a small-sample-size blip.
“It’s just different,” Beverley said. “A team like New York, no offense to them, they’re not in the contender race right now. Come to a new team, new system, and especially Doc’s system — he likes to run everything strategically, almost to perfection, so it takes time.”
If Morris’ shooting numbers have decreased, his teammates’ trust in him has not. This season, when players met for their final pregame huddle, it was always Beverley who barked the final orders. But soon after Morris was traded, Beverley ceded the role. Now it is Morris who tells teammates to “be great for 48 minutes.”
Point guard Reggie Jackson, who joined the team Feb. 20, said it was a sign of trust that established players would give a new addition such a role.
“His voice matters on this team,” Beverley said.
But so too does his shooting.
at Golden State
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570
Update: Center Joakim Noah signed a 10-day contract with the Clippers on Monday. The team is optimistic he will sign a second 10-day contract and, eventually, sign another deal to stay with the team for the remainder of the season barring any setbacks with his health. Noah suffered an Achilles tendon injury last year that delayed his availability for a 13th NBA season. ... In 11 games since being traded from Minnesota, guard Andrew Wiggins is averaging 19.3 points for the Warriors (15-49).