Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Adam Morrison carries the heavy emotional burden of belonging to a select club that no one wants to be a part of.
The No. 3 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, Morrison was out of the NBA last season and playing for Turkish club Besiktas Milangaz, the same team Nets point guard Deron Williams briefly played for before returning to the NBA after the lockout.
Now Morrison is back trying to get one more shot to live up to his potential. He was the star attraction among 22 players at the first day of the Nets’ free agent mini-camp Monday.
“When they asked me, ‘Do you want to talk to the media?’ [I thought] Christ, you guys haven’t seen me in three, four years,” the 6-foot-8 Morrison, sporting hair well below his shoulders, said with a chuckle.
“I understand that I’m never going to shake being a bust or being a failure in some people’s eyes, but I’ve experienced a lot of highs in basketball,” added Morrison, who turns 28 in July. “So I guess you can call it a hardship but it’s really not. I get to play basketball for money and it’s pretty good.”
Morrison owns two NBA championship rings from his time with the Lakers, but hasn’t competed in the NBA since playing in four preseason games for the Washington Wizards during the 2010-11 season. He then took that year off before playing in Turkey last season.
“I want to get on another team and see if I can get another chance,” said Morrison, who averaged 11.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists last year in Turkey. “It’s as simple as that.”
The Nets’ mini-camp was an odd setting for a man chosen No. 3 overall by Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006. In what was considered one of the weakest drafts in NBA history, Morrison was chosen out of Gonzaga behind only Andrea Bargnani and LaMarcus Aldridge and ahead of the likes of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo.
Morrison will practice for three days here against players of far less repute, guys like Taylor Griffin, Anthony Roberson and Sylven Landesberg.
“I’m like every one of these guys, I wasn’t in the NBA last year,” Morrison said. “So no pressure anymore. People are going to view me as a failure or a bust so the pressure’s really not on.”
“I think it proves the point that he likes to play basketball,” Nets GM Billy King said. “He’s made enough money, he probably could just sit back. But I think he wants to play basketball and wants to play in the NBA, so I think it’s a testament to him that he’s willing to come here and play just like last year he went to Washington without a guarantee to their training camp.”
King said the Nets reached out to Morrison because “we wanted to see where he is athletically, see if he has still has the skill-set. Same thing with Hilton Armstrong, Julian Wright, Al Thornton [who are in the camp]…A lot of times guys that get overlooked and people keep overlooking them and just sometimes you gotta put them in the right environment and it clicks for them.”
King compared those players to guys like John Starks, Gerald Wilkins and Anthony Mason, who took time to blossom in the NBA.
“It doesn’t always happen right away,” King said. “Sometimes it just takes the right situation, the right coach giving them the confidence level that they go out and play. And then everybody will say, ‘Why didn’t we go after him?'”
After going No. 3 overall in 2006, Morrison had a relatively strong rookie season, averaging 11.8 points.
But he suffered a torn ACL and missed all of the next season and was then dealt to a deep, veteran-laden Lakers team midway through the 2008-9 season.
Morrison took only 12 field goal attempts the rest of that season, making four. He spent one more season barely playing in Los Angeles, but picking up his second NBA ring.
“He suffered a serious knee injury,” Morrison’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told SNY.tv. “People forget he had a great rookie season.”
Morrison ended up on Besiktas last season after Williams returned home to the U.S.
“They retired his jersey over there so it’s kind of weird seeing Deron Williams,” Morrison said. “He played there for a month or whatever.”
Morrison could potentially end up teaming up with Williams if both end up on the Nets, but a lot has to happen before then. Williams is expected to opt out and become a free agent by July 1.
“We’re talking to a number of teams that have expressed interest in him,” Bartelstein said. “I fully expect him to be back in the NBA this year and we’ll see what happens over the next month or so.”
Morrison, still carrying the emotional burden associated with being a bust, just wants another chance.
“I just want to get another opportunity,” he said, “and make the most of it.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.