NBA @ 2: Anthony Morrow Diversifies His Game
A fantasy basketball fanatic could probably tell you that Nets shooting guard Anthony Morrow is on a bit of a hot streak. Before missing Monday’s game against the Chicago Bulls to attend his grandmother’s funeral, the sharp-shooting off guard had dropped 28 points in a road loss to the Indiana Pacers and fought through ankle trouble to score a career-high 42 points in a losing effort against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What’s harder to explain is how Morrow, who averages 14.7 PPG, is doing it.
Yes, he’s still hitting his 3-pointers (a total of 13 between both games), but Morrow is no longer tethered to the arc as he once was. He’s taking defenders off the dribble, using back-door cuts and playing a two-man game with point guard Deron Williams.
“That’s something he’s always been able to do,” teammate Jordan Farmar told HOOPSWORLD about Morrow’s ball-handling ability. “He just never had the opportunity to do that, we just probably haven’t seen that, but he can really handle the ball.
There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Morrow’s handle through his first three seasons. He’s lanky at 6-5 with long arms and has a certain smoothness to his game as opposed to the quick, violent motions of penetrating guard. But if the object of handling the ball is to gain better offensive positioning, then Morrow is getting the job done.
After going down with an ankle issue against the Pacers, Morrow returned to hit four fourth-quarter shots inside the arc, mostly by taking defenders off the dribble. And while he may not have looked like Washington Wizards point guard John Wall while he was doing it, Morrow took advantage of defenders’ assumptions that he would simply hoist up 3-pointers. Through a series of pump fakes and stutter steps, Morrow gave opponents something else to think about.
“There’s never been a time where I didn’t think I could (take defenders off the dribble),” Morrow told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s just been from my rookie year until now just negotiating when guys are closing out, knowing (where) some guys are going to be. (Pacers swingman) Paul George is a good defender, he’s long so you’ve got to know if you can take him off the dribble or mix it up, shoot deeper from three so it’s just little stuff like that I worked on this summer.”
Currently Morrow is hitting 45.5% of his 3-pointers, but just 42.9% of his two-pointers. However, he added strength in the offseason to help him absorb contact in the lane, which he hopes makes him more effective near the basket.
With the way the Nets have been encumbered by injuries this season, it’s imperative that Morrow expands his game. It’s not enough for him to simply be a 3-point shooter.
“Yeah, I worked very hard this off-season on every aspect and just everything defensively as well. Offensively (with) Deron, it’s easy on him if I’m not just a catch-and-shoot person so I added a couple of back-doors, have some runners in the lane, some pull-ups and post-ups and the thing about Deron is he knows that I can do more of that and he knew before coming here that I had more than just catch-and-shoot (ability). Got a superstar behind you like that and it really pushes you to show the rest of your game. That’s good for me, that’s good for everybody else.”
Ball handling aside, Morrow’s development on the defensive end is what really piques his teammates and coaches’ collective interest. Anyone who plays for Avery Johnson is asked to play tenaciously on that end of the floor. Until now, Morrow has never really had to defend top scorers. But with MarShon Brooks and DeShawn Stevenson in and out of the lineup with injuries, Morrow is starting to find ways to use his length on the perimeter.
“He’s been good the hole time,” Farmar said. “He’s just getting the chance to play more. Defensively is where he’s probably made the biggest strides and that’s just because that’s they ask that on this team.”
Morrow still has room to grow defensively, but if this team does take that next giant step in free agency or through a trade, his growth will undoubtedly be appreciated. Whether it’s a returning Brook Lopez or the acquisition of Dwight Howard, Morrow’s presence will spread the floor for whomever anchors the paint for the Nets.
“He’s a good basketball player,” Farmar concluded. “Very fundamentally sound. Great shooter from all over the floor. Post game, spot up shots, coming off screens, free throws; he can finish in the paint even though he’s not explosively athletic.
“I really enjoy playing with him. I like his game a lot.”
Can Jeremy Lin Cover for Carmelo Anthony’s Absence?
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is out 1-2 weeks after straining his groin in the first quarter on Monday’s 99-88 win over the Utah Jazz. Usually that would spell death for the Knicks faithful, but everyone is too enamored with Jeremy Lin to even notice.
Lin has gone from registering a D-League triple double a few weeks ago to dropping 53 points over his last two NBA games.
The team was already playing without Amar’e Stoudemire, who returned home to Florida following the tragic death of his brother, so Lin’s offensive outburst is coming at the right time. Veteran point guard Baron Davis has also yet to make his season debut, and it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon.
The Knicks are in Washington tonight to face Wall and the Wizards, so Lin will have his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball. The biggest area of concern with Lin is his outside shooting. The Harvard alum hit his first 3-pointer of the season on Monday. However, he’s done well at getting into the lane, hitting shots (20 of 36 from the field over the last two games) and getting fouled (16 free throws during that time).
Check Out: Jazz vs. Pacers
Admit it, Utah Jazz-Indiana Pacers wasn’t at the top of your “must see” viewing when the NBA season started. However the teams are a combined 29-17 and are each loaded with young talent.
The Jazz are starting to fade after a hot start and their road record is just 2-6, but the play of swingman Gordon Hayward (9.7 PPG) is of particular interest to Indiana natives who saw the 6-9 21-year-old star at Butler.
Also, keep an eye on Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter, who was held scoreless in Monday’s loss to the Knicks, but had 10 points and six boards in Saturday’s upset of the Lakers.
Not a lot of people are talking about Kanter’s rookie production (5.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG), but that’s just because he’s buried behind Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. When Kanter has played, he’s looked smart and efficient, which could make the aforementioned pair of bigs expendable at some point down the line.
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