When Marcus Morris saw the Knicks’ schedule, he found it funny, one of those random coincidences you have to laugh at. His first game in the blue and orange will be against none other than the Spurs, the team he infamously spurned this offseason.
“I just smiled,” he recalled on Sunday.
He may not see many smiles Wednesday when the Knicks open in San Antonio and he isn’t expecting any. The veteran 6-foot-9 forward knows he will not be treated nicely, especially after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team was “blindsided” by Morris’ change of heart and it was an “unfortunate situation that was handled unprofessionally on a couple different levels.”
“If I was them, I’d boo me, too,” Morris said. “I can understand. We have disagreements in life.”
The 30-year-old Morris verbally agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Spurs, but before signing, changed his mind and accepted the Knicks’ one-year, $15 million offer. Morris ended up firing his agent, Rich Paul, who wanted him to stick with the Spurs. Adding to the problem, the Spurs dealt young forward Davis Bertans to the Wizards to make salary-cap space for Morris.
In a few days, Morris can put the Spurs story behind him and focus on helping his current team. He’s glad it’ll be over with soon, though he will be the big storyline in Texas for the Knicks opener.
“In the first game, it’s great,” he said. “I don’t have to go back there, I don’t have to see it anymore. Like I said, great organization, nothing bad about them.”
Morris has said getting closer to home in Philadelphia played a role in wanting to come to the Knicks. He also was betting on himself, since he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and can possibly command a multi-year contract. This will be a different situation for Morris, who could’ve played for a contender with the Spurs and has reached the postseason three of the last four years. Now he finds himself trying to speed up the young Knicks rebuild and become relevant again.
“Here, I like what the guys are doing. The confidence I have in upper management, great conversations,” said Morris, who averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Celtics last year. “I’m all about helping them restart and rebuild and being a leader of a team. I just think this is a great opportunity, I’m closer to home. I just feel like I’m made for New York.”
He said a lot of the right things so far, talked about bringing back the hard-nosed Knicks of the 1990s and wanting to play “bully ball.” In his preseason debut, Morris was ejected for swinging his elbows at Justin Anderson and hitting the Wizards forward on the head with the ball.
In three preseason games, Morris averaged 17.3 points and seven rebounds, showcasing his value. The last four years, he was playing on a team-friendly contract, a four-year, $20 million deal he inked while with the Suns. He wanted to maximize his worth and felt the Knicks offered him that opportunity.
“At the end of the day, you go through different paths in the league. I wouldn’t change anything about it,” he said. “Everybody wants more money and you see that right now. But I’m here right now, I played myself into a good contract and I just want to help this team win.”