Marcus Morris is a bit of an oddity on the Knicks active roster in that he’s been to the playoffs. There’s only three of them.
Perhaps more so than any other Knick, Morris’ career arc and clock are should be screaming for another winning season. The 30-year-old’s resume, fiery personality and physicality make him the king of accountability on the Knicks.
And it was already felt on Media Day when Morris was asked what it meant to be a “dog.”
“You’ve seen me play? That’s my definition right there,” Morris said. “Guys that are not going to back down, guys that are going to go out there and compete every night. And I can tell you this first and foremost, it’s not going to be like last year.”
Morris indeed brings an edge and toughness that was sorely missing from the Knicks as they trudged to a league-worst 65 losses. Still, his decision to join a rebuilding team as a free agent in the summer was curious. The circumstances were also controversial.
Morris had verbally agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Spurs — a team with yearly high expectations — but then reneged to ink the one-year, $15 million pact with the Knicks. In between, he and his power agent, Rich Paul, parted ways. On Tuesday, Morris explained that returning to the East Coast was a priority as a Philadelphia native. Morris also hinted that he felt misled during free agency.
“My biggest thing was as far as my free agency didn’t go as planned, a lot of it came off unknown sourcing or situations,” he said. “I kind of committed very early, earlier than I really wanted to. New York came involved and I saw the opportunity in the East Coast, and the biggest thing is, I know they embrace guys like myself. That’s a big thing, someone to accept me for the type of player I am, the heart that I have. I’m excited to come. I think it’s going to be a really surprising year for us.”
Morris started the last four seasons on either the Pistons or the Celtics, advancing to the playoffs three times, including an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the Knicks, though, there’s a logjam at forward and no starting spot guaranteed. Julius Randle, who just signed for $63 million, is expected to get the bulk of the minutes at power forward, and the Knicks consider either Kevin Knox or RJ Barrett as the future at small forward.
Morris, like the rest of the Knicks, is taking the right approach with the starting lineup by saying it has to be earned.
“That’s for coach to decide. I think during training camp it’s going to be a very competitive training camp. Whoever plays better, whoever plays well, they should start,” Morris said. “I’m all about competition. I think it’s going to be a very competitive training camp, a lot of guys want to start. Everybody wants to start. Whatever is best for the team I’m willing to do. My biggest goal is just to win games.”
Regardless of how the rotation unfolds, Morris believes the Knicks have the right attitude after last season’s misery.
The biggest thing is there’s a lot of dogs on this team, a lot of guys that are going to go out and try to prove themselves, a lot of young guys that are willing to get better and are willing to listen,” he said. “The biggest thing is I think from last year the guys that are still here have a chip on their shoulder from only winning 17 games and coming in and trying to get better. I think it’s going to be a good year.”
Guard Damyean Dotson will “likely” miss the preseason after undergoing shoulder surgery in May to repair a torn labrum, according to the Knicks. He’s expected to be ready for the season.
Reggie Bullock, another guard, remains out indefinitely because of a cervical disc herniation. He’ll be re-evaluated in November. The Knicks originally signed Bullock in the summer for two years, $21 million, but found out about the injury during the physical and reduced the pact to two years, $4 million.