Its all starting to come together for Marcus Morris.
The Houston Rockets forward and Philadelphia native is finally getting his opportunity to display his skills on the professional level on a consistent basis.
Morris, who the Rockets selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft, hardly played last season, appearing in only 17 games, and having to deal with the lockout that killed his offseason, preseason and regular season.
He said the lockout didnt hurt his development, but the Rockets did elect to send him to the NBA Developmental League for 11 games last season.
Its just something that Houston does with their rookies, Morris said Saturday of his NBADL stint. Lockout or no lockout, I would have been there regardless.
But that was then. Those growing pains are over.
This season, his minutes are up (22:41 per game). His scoring is up (9.0 points per game). His rebounds are up, too (4.1). The Kansas product even found himself in the starting lineup as well, as Morris has started 17 games this season, including the Rockets' 107-100 loss to the 76ers on Saturday night (see game story). Morris, who played 20:54 minutes, finished with four points and two rebounds on 2-of-6 shooting.
Just getting used to playing, Morris said when asked what had been the biggest transition in his sophomore year.
And hes taking advantage of the playing time. Ever since Morris has been inserted in the starting lineup back in December, the Rockets are 10-6; he is averaging 10.9 points, and 3.9 rebounds during that span.
Morris understands the Rockets, who are second in the NBA in scoring averaging 105.6 points per game, are in no need dire need of an additional scorer, but if the opportunity to score is available, hell take it.
Rockets assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff works with Morris daily. He noticed the progress Morris is making and also notices how the second year forwards role is increasing in the Houston offense.
When he came into our starting lineup, he helped our spacing on the floor, Bickerstaff said. Him being on the floor, our scoring went up because it opens up room for Jeremy Lin. It opens up room for James Harden because people have to respect his ability to shoot the basketball.
When the subject of defense popped up, Morris smiled. He knows he needs to better develop, especially for a team that ranks 29th in the league in points allowed at 103.2 points per game.
Morris didnt make excuses but admitted that playing the power forward position is more difficult than he thought.
I am playing against big guys, he said. As far as height (hes listed at 6-foot-9), Im an average power forward height, but weight it's tough. Next year, I may have to put on some weight.
Nowadays the Rockets are a team that is centered around Harden, who clearly is the leader. Morris confides in Harden from time to time, as Harden can relate to some of the hardships Morris will or already has been going through.
Harden said the most important things he tells Morris is to be consistent and learn from his mistakes.
This league is about how hard you work and the consistent work you put in, Harden, who scored a team-high 29 points in the loss to the 76ers on Saturday, said. If you dont really put in any work, youre not going to get anything out of it. So many talent guys in this league, he has to be consistent everyday.
When speaking of his teammatementor, Morris was most impressed with Hardens ability to score. Hes a tough player. He makes scoring look real easy at times. Hes young, too, so he has a long, long NBA career.
Though he wanted to leave the Wells Fargo Center with a victory in front of family and friends, Morris knows its long road ahead a road that hes just beginning to travel.
The second year is always the tough year, Morris said. But thats what the league is for; for you to learn and get better. I think every year Ill get better, as my role becomes bigger and bigger. Well see.
McHale showing Jrue some love
Before Saturdays game, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale was asked about 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday and didnt hold his tongue when describing the UCLA product.
McHale, who called Holiday the heart and soul of the 76ers, admired Holidays ability to score and get his teammates involved.
Hes such a young guy, McHale said, but hes really coming into his own. I think people are wondering if hes a point guard, is he not a point guard, hes just a really good instrument.
Asked if Holiday, who scored a game-high 30 points in Saturdays win, was playing like an All-Star, McHale laughed before responding, I only vote on Western Conference guys.
But would McHale vote for Holiday if he was on the Western Conference?
The Hall of Famer smiled again, and said, Hes not.
NBA All-Star balloting will conclude on Monday and starters will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 17.
E-mail Jabari Young at firstname.lastname@example.org