Markieff Morris

Northwest Notes: Morris, Saric, Saunders

While the Thunder entered the All-Stat break with a loss to the Pelicans, the team will start the second half with an added boost. Oklahoma City agreed to terms with veteran big man Markieff Morris, which should fortify the team’s frontcourt.

Morris, who spent most of the season with the Wizards, has not played since December, when a neck injury forced him to the sidelines. While his role and performance were inconsistent in Washington, Morris averaged 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 34 games. Morris figures to serve as a primary backup at the four in Oklahoma City.

Brett Dawson and Fred Katz of The Athletic examined how Morris will fit in with the Thunder’s current roster. Katz compared Morris’ potential fit to that of Enes Kanter with a more capable perimeter game. While it remains to be seen how Morris settles in, at least one new teammate is excited by his arrival.

“We’re good,Paul George said. “We’re a good group. We added a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re gonna be ready for the second half after this break.”

Check out more Northwest Division notes:

  • The Timberwolves‘ decision to start Dario Saric in place of Taj Gibson led the team to score 74 points in the paint on Thursday. Interim head coach Ryan Saunders complimented Saric on creating space with his presence, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s one thing we like with Dario spacing the floor and having Taj in there at times, too,” Saunders said. “Karl(-Anthony Towns) has a little more opportunity to work. Playing through Karl is definitely a focus of ours.”
  • Speaking of Saunders, he’s only a few weeks into the job after the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Saunders praised the Timberwolves‘ players for easing his transition into head coaching duties, Feigen writes“Anything that’s new and sudden, it takes time to get more comfortable just in your regimen, your daily routine in things. But I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “The credit goes to the players in terms of how they make me feel, too.”
  • At 27-30, the Timberwolves are four games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. While their postseason odds are not great, the team insists there is reason for optimism entering the second half, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes.

Thunder, Markieff Morris Agree To Deal

The Thunder have reached a contract agreement with free agent forward Markieff Morris, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Even after signing Richard Solomon and Scotty Hopson to 10-day deals today, Oklahoma City has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move will be required.

Morris, 29, spent most of the season with the Wizards, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG on .436/.333/.781 shooting in 34 games (26.0 MPG). However, conscious of their proximity to the luxury tax threshold, the Wizards opted to trade him at last week’s deadline, saving some money by sending him to New Orleans along with a future second-round pick for Wesley Johnson.

After being subsequently waived by the Pelicans, Morris – who had been recovering from a neck injury – was cleared to resume full basketball activities and reportedly drew interest from the Rockets, Raptors, and Lakers in addition to the Thunder. The Nets were among the other clubs in the mix for him, tweets Charania.

[RELATED: 2019 Buyout Market Watch]

Morris represents an intriguing addition for the Thunder, who had been on the lookout for a stretch four due to Patrick Patterson‘s inconsistent play. While Morris wasn’t exactly having a career year in Washington, he’ll be an upgrade on Patterson, assuming he’s healthy. He should also help replace the shooting previously provided by Alex Abrines, who parted ways with Oklahoma City last week.

It’s not clear whether or not the Thunder will sign Morris right away. Postponing the transaction until after the All-Star break would create some savings on OKC’s cap and projected tax bill, so if Morris is on board with it, the club may wait.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: Barnes, LeBron, Morris, Griffin

Now that the Kings have Harrison Barnes, the next step is to figure out the best role for him, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Acquired from the Mavericks last week, Barnes has played extensively at both forward spots and his usage in Sacramento may depend on the opponent, according to coach Dave Joerger.

“I’m still learning what to do,” Joerger said. “How much I do I want to play Harrison at (small forward)? How much at (power forward)? And what do the matchups look like? And I need to get it done sooner than later because we’re not going to find a rhythm if I don’t figure it out quickly.”

Barnes has played both positions extensively throughout his career, with 48% of his minutes as a three and 50% as a four. The Warriors used him mainly as a small forward when he broke into the league, but shifted him to power forward later in his tenure there. He was mainly a power forward in Dallas.

“It’s a good problem to have,” added Joerger, who said he has wanted Barnes on his team for years. “You want to be as versatile as we can be at times. It’s going to be a little bit on the run, as we know, and it’s tough on me, but guys are playing as hard as they can and that’s all you can ask as a coach. And it’s on me to figure some of that stuff out.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • LeBron James hasn’t lived up to the excitement that surrounded his decision to join the Lakers, contends Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. will enter the All-Star break with a 28-29 record, placing them 10th in the Western Conference. Plaschke notes that although James has been brilliant on the court, he missed 17 games with a groin injury and affected team chemistry by maneuvering to get head coach Luke Walton replaced and pushing for an Anthony Davis deal that caused all of his young teammates to be subjected to weeks of trade rumors.
  • The Lakers missed out on Enes Kanter in the buyout market, but they remain in the running for Markieff Morris, tweets ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who names the Rockets, Thunder and Raptors as the other top contenders. L.A. is also considering Carmelo Anthony, Shelburne adds, but is concerned because he hasn’t been active since November.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman examines whether the Clippers made the right move by trading away Blake Griffin last season.

Markieff Morris Draws Interest From Several Teams

Free agent forward Markieff Morris has drawn interest from the Rockets, Lakers and Raptors, agent Rich Paul told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Morris was dealt from the Wizards to the Pelicans last week and subsequently waived. He has not played since December 26 due to a neck injury, but was cleared to resume full basketball activities on Monday by spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins of Los Angeles, Haynes continues. He’s expected to decide which team to join this week, Haynes adds.

Morris, 29, has appeared in 34 games this season, including 15 starts, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG.

All of Morris’ reported suitors have open roster spots via deals made prior to last week’s deadline. They’re also playoff contenders seeking a rotation piece for the stretch drive and postseason.

The Lakers’ interest was previously reported, though they’ve also been linked to Carmelo Anthony.

Celtics forward Marcus Morris posted a tweet on Monday expressing his desire to become teammates with his brother again, as they had been in Phoenix. However, the Celtics have not shown any interest in making that happen, according to an NBC Sports Boston report.

Magic Johnson To Meet With Lakers’ Players

After approximately half of the players on the Lakers‘ 15-man roster were mentioned in rumored trade talks for Anthony Davis within the last week, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson intends to meet with the club this weekend in Philadelphia, reports Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

According to Turner, Johnson will talk to the Lakers’ players about the Davis saga and will listen to every player who wants to say something, encouraging an open dialogue so that the Lakers can move forward and focus on the task ahead for the rest of the season. Turner writes that Johnson will emphasize “that the NBA is a business and that this franchise is about winning championships and doing all it can to accomplish that goal.”

Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were all featured in various Davis-related rumors last week, with reports suggesting that L.A. had offered each of those players in at least one package for the Pelicans’ star.

The ongoing chatter seemed to be affecting the Lakers on the court on Tuesday night, when the team suffered a 42-point loss in Indiana. However, L.A. bounced back on Thursday, winning a dramatic 129-128 contest over the Celtics.

At 28-27, the Lakers remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the West and currently sit 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers. The club opened up a roster spot on Thursday and could add some reinforcements for the stretch run.

While Carmelo Anthony has frequently been linked to the Lakers, the team also has interest in Markieff Morris, assuming he’s healthy, Turner reports. Morris, who is dealing with a neck injury, was waived by the Pelicans on Thursday and is on track to reach free agency this weekend.

Celtics Notes: Deadline, Irving, Morris, Hawks’ Pick

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explored the trade market, but ultimately stood pat after not finding any deals he liked, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“We spent a lot of time on the phone talking deals, looking for good ones,” Ainge said. “It was hard to find good ones this year just because we really like our team.”

While it may have been hard for Celtics fans to watch the Sixers, Bucks, and Raptors load up for the playoff race, the club remains confident that it has the pieces necessary to contend for the conference crown. As Blakely relays, Celtics players are happy the team’s core remained intact.

“The (trade) deadline was a lot, for a lot of other people,” Kyrie Irving said. “For us, we were pretty set. They made that very clear, management. So, I’m just happy we just have to focus on the rest of the season and have some fun doing so.”

Here’s more from out of Boston:

  • Irving called the moves made by the East’s other top teams “great pickups,” but he and his teammates were mostly unfazed by those clubs’ deadline deals, says Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Speaking of Irving, Ainge was asked again today during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub about the point guard’s upcoming free agency, and provided an interesting answer (link via ESPN.com). “The way I viewed the situation is that I think a lot of people, because of Kyrie’s announcement at the beginning of the year, thought that it was a marriage,” Ainge said. “And I think that it’s more like an engagement. And we’re going to get married on July 1st. I think that engagement is still on, as far as I know. In my individual conversations with Kyrie, we’re still engaged but we really can’t make those vows, sign that contract until July 1st.”
  • Markieff Morris was waived by the Pelicans at the deadline, but Marcus Morris won’t necessarily be pushing the Celtics to add his twin brother, pointing out that there might not be enough minutes to go around in Boston. As Forsberg relays for NBC Sports Boston, Morris just hopes that his brother doesn’t end up playing for one of Boston’s Eastern rivals. “We still trying to figure out what he’s going to do,” Marcus said of Markieff. “If he’s cleared [to return to play after a neck injury], then I’m definitely going to have the conversation with him. I’d rather him go to the West.”
  • Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports confirms (via Twitter) that the 2020 second-round pick the Celtics received in Thursday’s Jabari Bird trade is the Hawks‘ own selection and is top-55 protected. In other words, barring a massive turnaround from Atlanta next season, it won’t actually convey.

Pelicans Waive Markieff Morris

FEBRUARY 8: Morris was officially released on Thursday night, RealGM’s NBA transactions log confirms. While the Pelicans didn’t formally announce the transaction, Morris had to be cut in order to accommodate the Nikola Mirotic trade, which saw New Orleans acquire two players for one.

FEBRUARY 7: The Pelicans plan to waive forward Markieff Morris, who’s currently dealing with a neck injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

New Orleans acquired Morris and a 2023 second-round pick in a trade with Washington this week, sending away forward Wesley Johnson. Morris is dealing with Transient Cervical Neuropraxia and began experiencing discomfort in his neck and upper back last month. Morris is expected to seek a second opinion on his injury, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

The Wizards originally put a six-week timetable on Morris at the start of his injury, which was diagnosed during the first week of January.

Morris, an eight-year veteran, mostly spent the past four seasons as Washington’s starting power forward and established himself as a valuable 3-and-D talent. He joins Enes Kanter, Zach Randolph, Marcin Gortat, Wayne Ellington and others as players who are now available in free agency.

Before getting injured, Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds on 44% shooting, starting in 15 of 34 contests on the season.

Trade Rumors: Davis, Randolph, Wolves, Morris

The Knicks and Lakers are equal on Anthony Davis‘ list of preferred destinations, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The Clippers and Bucks also remain in the top four, Stein adds. New York may make a bid for Davis before the deadline, but it should be in a stronger position after the draft lottery when everyone knows where its first-rounder will fall (Twitter link).

League sources tell Stein that Davis doesn’t expect to sign his next contract before he reaches free agency in 2020, no matter where he is by then (Twitter link). That means anyone who trades for Davis won’t be assured of a long-term extension.

He has been sidelined with a fractured left index finger, but Davis intends to resume playing regardless of what happens at the trade deadline (Twitter link). He has received medical clearance to return to action, but the Pelicans haven’t divulged their plans for Davis if there’s no trade on Thursday. He was held out of two games this week to avoid further injury.

Here’s a roundup of rumors heading into the trade deadline:

  • The Lakers are running out of hope that a Davis trade will be completed before the deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Pelicans GM Dell Demps hasn’t responded to Magic Johnson’s latest offer, and it appears New Orleans is content to run out the clock. The Pelicans may never have been serious about dealing with L.A. and might have been trying to sabotage the Lakers as revenge for what they consider to be tampering, tweets Rachel Nichols, host of ESPN’s “The Jump.” “It’s not just possible, it’s what happened,” colleague Brian Windhorst said today in an appearance on the show.
  • The Mavericks will have buyout talks with newly acquired Zach Randolph, Wojnarowski tweets. The 37-year-old hasn’t played yet this season, but he may be able to help a contender.
  • The Timberwolves continue to look for someone to take Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, sources tell Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. Teague has a $19MM player option for next season, while Dieng still has two seasons left on his four-year, $63MM deal. Minnesota hasn’t found much interest, but it may be willing to attach Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver or Luol Deng as incentives.
  • New Pelican Markieff Morris could become a buyout candidate once he’s fully recovered from a neck injury, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
  • The Thunder plan to watch what the Suns do with Wayne Ellington and may be interested if he hits the buyout market, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News (Twitter link).

Wizards Trade Markieff Morris To Pelicans

FEBRUARY 7, 12:36am: The trade is now official, the Wizards announced in a press release.

FEBRUARY 6, 10:19pm: Washington has agreed to trade veteran forward Markieff Morris to the Pelicans, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Wizards will get Wesley Johnson in return, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link).

Between this deal and one earlier tonight that shipped Otto Porter to Chicago for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker, the Wizards have dropped below the luxury tax and won’t be subject to the repeater tax, Hughes adds (Twitter link).

Morris makes $8.6MM, while Johnson is at $6.1MM, so Washington saves $2.5MM in salary just from that trade in addition to sneaking below the tax line. Both players have expiring contracts.

The Wizards also sent their 2023 second-round pick to New Orleans, tweets David Aldridge of The Athletic. Washington received a 2023 second-rounder from Chicago in the first deal, so the team didn’t mind parting with its own.

Markieff Morris Expected To Miss Six Weeks

After visiting a specialist to address his lingering neck and back soreness, Wizards forward Markieff Morris has been diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Wizards, Morris will be limited to non-contact basketball activities for the next six weeks. He’s expected to be cleared to resume full basketball activities at that point.

Morris initially suffered his injury when he took a blow to the chin on December 16 vs. the Lakers, then re-aggravated it during a December 26 game in Detroit.

Although he has been coming off the bench since mid-November, Morris remains a key part of Washington’s rotation, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 34 games (26.0 MPG) so far this season. Losing him for an extended stretch will further hamstring the Wizards, who will already be without John Wall for the season and have had Dwight Howard in their lineup for just nine games since signing him over the summer.

Even at 15-23, the Wizards are just three games back of the eighth-seeded Pistons for a playoff spot in a weak Eastern Conference. If they’re still in the hunt when Morris returns, he’ll look to help the club make a postseason push down the stretch as he nears unrestricted free agency.

In Morris’ absence, Jeff Green figures to get the brunt of the team’s power forward minutes. Sam Dekker should also see regular action at the four, while Thomas Bryant and Ian Mahinmi man the five.