New-look Morrison happy to return to the court

Updated: July 9, 2008, 5:13 AM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Adam Morrison still has the shaggy, long hair, but it's wrapped in a ponytail. He still has the signature thin mustache, but now it's connected to a scraggly goatee.

Yet after major knee surgery, Morrison was most proud of his wardrobe change Tuesday. He finally shed the blazers he wore while sitting at the end of the bench last season for shorts and a jersey for the start of the Charlotte Bobcats' summer minicamp.

"It felt good to be out here and be a basketball player again," Morrison said.

Morrison isn't completely back from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in his left knee in an exhibition game on Oct. 20. He didn't participate in contact drills in new coach Larry Brown's first workout. He won't play in the team's summer league games starting Saturday. Brown targeted Labor Day for when Morrison will be without limitations.

And Morrison has a long way to go to disprove the critics who contend Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan made a bad decision taking him with the third pick in the 2006 draft.

"He's got a high basketball IQ. He's a gym rat, which I love," Brown said after watching Morrison consistently hit jumpers in drills at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. "We have just got to coach him up."

Morrison's role is one of the many issues Brown must tackle as he begins his record ninth NBA head coaching job. Morrison averaged 11.8 points as a rookie in 2006-07, but the former Gonzaga star shot just 38 percent, struggled defensively and acknowledged he felt enormous pressure from fans after Jordan selected him ahead of Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay.

Morrison was more relaxed in the preseason last year before he felt his knee pop while playing defense against the Los Angeles Lakers, wiping out his season.

"I had a good camp and felt comfortable with what my role was going to be," Morrison said. "It was disappointing. It was boring. Going to games and stuff, it's fun supporting your teammates, but it's tough knowing you're not going to have a chance to play any time soon."

With fellow wing players Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Matt Carroll and Jared Dudley, Morrison faces plenty of competition for playing time. Plus, Morrison's biggest weakness, defense, is one of Brown's top priorities.

Before flying to Las Vegas, Morrison spent nearly every day rehabbing his knee at the team's training center. He said he feels little pain, but is still fighting the psychological effect. Despite having diabetes, Morrison never missed a game in high school or college and played in 78 of 82 games as an NBA rookie.

"That's the biggest thing for me, to trust the knee," Morrison said. "It's healthy, it's there. The doctors did a great job, I rehabbed right. It's just all up here."

Morrison pointed to his head, which is perhaps where Brown has been aiming, too. When Brown was introduced as coach in April, he was asked if he had met any players. He listed a few names before bringing up Morrison.

"And the kid with the long hair, I didn't know his name," Brown deadpanned. "He wasn't dressed like a basketball player."

Brown didn't mention the hair Tuesday, but did comment on Morrison's slim physique, compounded by the time spent on crutches following surgery.

"He even got a little calf muscle now," said Brown, who shouted instructions and criticism in his first full practice since getting fired by the New York Knicks in 2006. "When I first saw him, he had none."

Sounds like Morrison has some work to do to win over the Hall of Fame coach.

"He's got a great basketball mind and he loves to teach," Morrison said. "That just plays right into the hands of a young team. I think that's something we need -- somebody to teach. I think it's going to be great for us."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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