The Los Angeles Clippers lost Nicolas Batum for about a week, but welcomed back one of their other forwards from a month-long absence. Marcus Morris made his long-awaited return to the Clippers’ lineup, starting Tuesday night’s game against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
Morris was announced as the Clippers’ starter pregame and, despite being on a minutes restriction, played 31 minutes in his first game back. Although his return also coincided with the return of Luka Doncic, Morris simply getting back on the court was a great sign.
“I’ve just basically [been] training, training my knee,” Marcus Morris told ClutchPoints after the game. “It wasn’t like, nothing serious, same thing I was dealing with, so they just gave me some time to like just train it and get it ready for a full season and I think I utilized the time really well and I feel great.”
Morris was the starting power forward for the Clippers to start the season. He played two games but was the sidelined due to “left knee conditioning” or “left knee; injury maintenance.”
In total, Morris missed 15 consecutive games as he worked on strengthening his knee. His return against Luka Doncic and the Mavs couldn’t have come at a better time as Nicolas Batum, who tested positive for COVID-19, is expected to miss at least a week due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Whenever Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was asked about Morris, he simply noted that he was “progressing,” without much more information. So why exactly did Morris suddenly miss a month after claiming to start the season healthy?
“My movement just wasn’t right,” Marcus Morris admitted. “I just wasn’t feeling comfortable. I’ve been playing, I’ve been in the league 11 years, I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. You know, I’m just being real with myself. I’d rather just come back when I’m ready, when I’m ready to contribute at a high level. That’s where I feel like I’m at now.”
“My movement just wasn’t right. I just wasn’t feeling comfortable… I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. I’m just being real with myself. I’d rather just come back when I’m ready to contribute at a high level. That’s where I feel like I’m at now.”
– Marcus Morris pic.twitter.com/MzIUi0x0AX
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 24, 2021
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While it’s not being mentioned enough, the short NBA offseason definitely could’ve played a part in Morris’ knee maintenance.
“I think it affects everybody, not just me. I’m a veteran, I’ve been playing a lot of games. So I think, you know just over time, when you speed us up like that, you got to play it live. Went to Western Conference Finals, and sure, short offseason, so it is what it is. I’m a pro. I’ll figure it out. I’m happy the Clippers gave me some time to get myself together. And I’m ready to go.”
Morris returned to a big matchup, as Luka Doncic made his return from a three-game absence due to knee and ankle sprains. The Mavs guard finished with 26 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists in Dallas’ win over the Clippers. The game didn’t lack any fireworks.
There were 47 fouls called to go along with six total technical fouls, one flagrant foul, five jump-balls, and 56 combined free throws in the 2-hour, 42-minute game. Every Clippers-Mavs game since their 2020 bubble postseason series has been fun, fiery, and contentious.
“When you beat somebody enough, you leave a bad taste in their mouth,” Marcus Morris responded when asked why every Clippers-Mavs game feels like a playoff game. “Now they want to play against you a lot. So it is what it is.
While Marcus Morris and Luka Doncic seem to be having fun playing against one another, the Clippers and Mavs fan bases seem to be pretty fed up with one another. The six-game series in 2020 was Doncic’s first playoff series, but Dallas came ever-so-close to eliminating the Clippers the following year. Morris was a huge reason why they didn’t, going off for 23 points and seven 3-pointers in Game 7 to advance to the second round and send Dallas home for a second consecutive season.
“We beat them all the time, so until they get a win, I mean … really, on our side, so they got to come in and they got to do this, what we’re doing. You know, kudos to their team. I like their team. They’ve been playing well, they’ve been sticking together. They have the same players for a few years, and it’s always fun. Having those battles, I think, over the years, it’s kind of dumbed down a little bit. Because, first of all, the refs are on my ass, so I can’t even talk to Luka Doncic. I can’t even like breathe on him. So that kind of like, makes it a little bit now where it’s corny. But it’s still a competition. You know what I mean? Shit, I’d rather have us go to blows, if it was up to me.”
Marcus Morris: "The refs are on my ass. I can't even talk to Luka, I can't even breathe on him."
Then adds on the rivalry:
"We beat them all the time so until they get a win, it's really on our side. But kudos to their team. I like their team. They're playing well." pic.twitter.com/jZXvvIK0OQ
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 24, 2021
The Clippers and Mavs ended up splitting their two games in Los Angeles. The two teams will face off again later in the season in Dallas on Feb. 10 and 12, 2022.
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