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Where’s Marcus?

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Marcus Morris, the Rockets' prized draft pick last summer, should be learning the tricks of the trade in Houston instead of dominating the relatively hapless D-League.

BY: RAMZY KAWAJA

SPACECITYSCOOP.COM 

The Rockets have developed a bad habit of babying their draft picks.

Many players, like Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, Patrick Patterson, Hasheem Thabeet and other young Rockets, have spent time in the D-League. While it seems that it did them some good eventually, I personally believe that this tactic actually stunted the growth of these high-potential players. Is playing minutes with a group of underachievers, rather than riding the pine and soaking in all that needs to be learned from veteran NBA stars and coaches, really helping a rookie?

Nothing prepares a young man for the speed of an NBA game than actually experiencing it first-hand. I can understand sending undrafted players there, but shipping your first-round pick to the D-League is just counter-productive.

The latest casualty is 2011 first-rounder (14th overall) Marcus Morris, from Kansas. Are you saying that a player who you trusted enough to draft that high overall, and who has been coached by future Hall Of Famer Bill Self, isn’t ready to take on the responsibility of being in an NBA rotation right now? The Rockets passed up on Kawhi Leonard for Morris, angering and confusing their fans. Now it feels like the anger was justified, given how serviceable Leonard is in San Antonio. Chandler Parsons was drafted in the next round and he has proven that the game is not too fast for him to be successful.

There was a reason Morris was chosen to be the starting small forward for Houston; the guy can play. The longer the Rockets wait, the longer it will take Morris to get where he wants to be as an NBA player. He could be used now. It’s not like Houston has a lot of depth at wing, and there’s got to be room for a versatile, 6-foot-9 scoring machine who can get the ball in the hoop a variety of ways.

The former Jayhawk can dominate the D-League, win the MVP, but when he finally gets to play in an NBA game, he will still be a rookie making rookie mistakes. At a time when a new coach and a new system are being implemented, it makes sense to play your most promising player and get him acquainted to things sooner rather than later.

Marcus Morris’s career stats as a Rocket this season: Three games played, 5.7 minutes per game, 1.7 points per game.

In the season opener in Orlando, the rook played a whopping four minutes, shooting and missing two 3-pointers and committing two fouls while trying to guard Glen Davis. Morris was forced into the power forward spot due to the absence of Patterson. Morris was clearly overmatched. “Big Baby” is a lot to handle for most players at his position, much less for a man playing in his first ever professional game.

Almost as soon as he got his feet wet, McHale had seen enough and diagnosed “The Twin” – his twin brother Markieff plays in Phoenix and is a part of its rotation – as unready for the NBA. This is hardly the sample size needed for someone to make an accurate assessment of a first-rounder’s game. If the Rockets’ coaches don’t think Morris is as good as Parsons right now, then something is wrong. Either McHale is being too hasty in his judgment of Morris, or GM Daryl Morey drafted a dud.

I don’t think it’s the latter. He’s averaging 19 points and seven rebounds while shooting 46 percent in the D-League.

All that is happening is that Morris’ development is being stalled. Paused for the time being. The guy is probably picking up bad habits from players who will likely never step inside an NBA arena unless they purchase a ticket. To make matters worse, Morris recently hurt his ankle. He is back practicing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, but what a disaster that would’ve been. Having the team’s future getting injured playing in a game he probably shouldn’t even be playing in is not something that could easily be explained to the owner or the fans.

The sooner the Rockets bring him back and let him take his lumps, the better. The only question remains: What are they waiting for?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Morris scored 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting on Thursday in the Vipers’ 136-113 loss to Canton in Hidalgo. Morris also had six rebounds in his 26 minutes as RGV fell to 20-14).

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