Friday, June 2, 2006
Updated: June 15, 11:45 AM ET
Morrison's pushing himself on and off the court
By Andy Katz
WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. -- The door to the apartment complex opened quickly, and there, standing as if he still was ready to go overtime against UCLA in the Sweet 16, is the slightly-hunched-over, 6-foot-8 Adam Morrison, clad in Gonzaga warmups, ready to hit the gym.
The apartment is classic Morrison. He is by nature a minimalist and, even though the complex is known to mostly house transitional people -- it has day, weekly and monthly rates -- you would think there would at least be some sign that someone was planning on staying for a spell.
Instead, Morrison's newly arrived Nike clothes were spilling out of a few boxes in the living room. There were a few Xbox game cases strewn on the table and a case of bottled water.
There was little evidence that anyone even sleeps here, but Morrison is getting his rest during the most important two months of his career, prepping for the possibility of being the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick. Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said Thursday that he is wide open and is looking forward to watching Morrison in person again, meaning the Zag is definitely in play to become the top pick.
Now less than a month away from the draft, Morrison has chosen to prepare in Southern California instead of his cozy but remote hometown of Spokane, Wash. On Wednesday, at the start of another day in his punishing and monotonous workout regimen, Morrison led an ESPN crew, as well as one of his agents, Aaron Mintz, out the door and to the nearby 360 Health Club to embark on a day in the life of the new, professional Morrison.
Cue up some Metallica, a Morrison motivational favorite.
First up at the club is breakfast -- as important a meal as lunch and dinner for Morrison, who cannot skip his meals due to his Type I diabetes.
"Cereal, toast, some fruit and throw in some eggs for protein, nothing special," said Morrison, his hair flopping just above the eyebrow line, his moustache still looking a bit scraggly and not fully filled in above the lip. "I've gone through trial and error to see what settles in my stomach and keeps my sugar levels right."
Morrison likes to schedule the meal an hour before he works out, so that means the session led by former UCLA Bruin and NBA forward Don MacLean will start around 11 a.m. Morrison's workout partners are two of his agents' (Mintz and Mark Bartelstein) clients -- seven-year NBA veteran Devean George of the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger, who just completed his rookie year.
Morrison loves high-stakes competition, from hoops to poker to Xbox. He craves it, so getting NBA players to work out with makes the most sense to him. He wants Bartelstein to set up workouts against his competitors at every stop. He'll get Memphis' Rodney Carney at Charlotte on Monday (the Bobcats pick No. 3 overall), and he might get Rudy Gay of Connecticut in Portland (No. 4) on June 15 and Toronto (No. 1) on June 21 -- and wouldn't mind seeing either one of them in Chicago (No. 2) on June 19, either. Morrison lit up both Gay's and Carney's clubs during the regular season, even though the Zags lost both games (versus UConn in Maui and at Memphis).
"Having NBA players in here can get him that experience and get him ready to play," George said.
Granger came in for one day a few weeks ago just to work out with Morrison and has since returned for a more regular routine.
"It's good for him to play against [us] and we're helping each other out," Granger said.
Before Morrison gets started, he takes us through his required diabetic equipment that is stashed in a bag along the sideline.
Follow Adam Morrison through his day with Andy Katz and the All-Access video crew.
"I've got my glucose meter and I'll check it once or twice [during the workout]," Morrison said. "You want to be at the 200 level [that's for diabetics, whereas a person without diabetes has a normal range of 70-120 prior to eating, according to various medical Web sites].
"I've got my [orange] juice and stuff," Morrison said. The "stuff" is a PowerBar, in case he needs a quick fix, as well as needles if he needs an insulin hit.
"I've never had a problem [serious enough that a shot or some food or drink couldn't regulate it]," Morrison said. During the hour-plus workout, he does go and check himself twice and takes a few swigs of juice, but doesn't need a shot.
Morrison doesn't need any extra push on the court, either. He's raring to go for the workout, even though he's been doing this routine for a month already and still has four weeks to go before the draft on June 28. He's even ready for more MacLean, even though both are argumentative and strongly opinionated, so it's no surprise that they grate on each other a bit.
"Don is one of those guys who pisses you off, but he pisses me off the right way," Morrison said. "We argue about everything, and that's fine. He fires me up. I've been around the guy for four straight weeks, so we're sick of each other."
MacLean's goal is to get Morrison in top shape, while also working on his quickness at the defensive end. But more than anything, he wants him to react against the better competition and learn the nuances of playing defense in the NBA.
Former NBA player Chris Dudley has given Adam Morrison advice on dealing with diabetes.
"No one is going to expect Adam to be a lock-down defender," MacLean said. "At the end of the day, he's going to get 25 a night. He's one of the guys who makes more shots in competition in 2-on-2 and full court than he does [in] shooting drills by himself."
MacLean has Morrison running off screens and he has relatively no problem getting his shot off against George. Conversely, Morrison isn't locking down George, either, but he is going toe-to-toe with a three-time NBA champion who has to guard Kobe Bryant in practice on a regular basis. Morrison does get his shot blocked once, but on more than a few occasions he gets George up and out of the play with a pump fake and then strokes a mid-range floater.
"Adam will be a very, very good scorer, but he won't be a pure isolation guy like [Tracy] McGrady or Bryant," said MacLean, who played for UCLA from 1988-92, was a second-team all-American in '92, and then played in the NBA from 1992-2001 for seven different teams.
"They'll run a lot of stuff for him but they won't clear a side for him and say, 'Get a score for us,' " MacLean, who ended his career as a Bartlestein client, said. "They'll run him off screens and he'll find ways to get his shots. The one-legged runner is usually a terrible shot for most people, but for him it's a good shot."
George stops a few times to instruct Morrison on angles defensively. He said Morrison has good foot speed but more than anything "needs to know what is legal and illegal [defensively]."
"Honestly, I thought I was a great defender in college, but I was lost the first half of the season," Granger said. "Once you learn the tricks, you'll be better."
Sweat dripping off him after the workout, Morrison continues to chirp with MacLean and New York Knicks forward David Lee, another Bartlestein client. Lee was nursing an ankle injury, so he didn't go in this session. Still, Morrison is a sponge for information, just like he says he'll be in July when he's one of two rookies (J.J. Redick of Duke is the other) who will be a part of the USA National Team trials in Las Vegas.
"This is great to go against an NBA veteran," Morrison said. "Every day, I've got someone pushing me. [In July], I'll be going against LeBron and Kobe and all the greats and I'll learn as much as I can."
Over lunch, Lee fills Morrison in on off-the-record stuff about daily life in the NBA. Mintz reminds Morrison that Lee was in a unique situation with the Knicks, arguably the league's most dysfunctional team this season. Lee does tell Morrison not to worry about the travel, since everything is first-class from the plane to the hotel. Morrison said he already had been briefed by former NBA player Chris Dudley, a diabetic, about not needing to fret about staying on his necessary meal schedule.
After a break, it's down to the weight room, where the compact, bald Jade Molina is waiting.
"He needs to improve his strength and power," said Molina, who is the sports performance director at 360. "We're doing a lot of exercises to develop his core stability. He needs a stable core so he can get up on different athletes that are bigger than him."
Morrison currently weighs 205 pounds. Molina wants him at 215 by the start of the season, but he doesn't want to mess with his weight before team workouts.
"We're getting him ready for the draft, not game day, yet," Molina said.
"This is a good program, and you can see that because obviously I'm tired and sweating right now," said Morrison after an hour in the weight room. "This is my job and I've got to step it up a bit."
There's an hour break and then the group meets up at Tower Records, where Morrison is interested in getting the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship DVD. If you're not familiar with UFC bouts, it's essentially two men in shorts with bare feet and pads on their knuckles knocking the crap out of each other in an octagon-shaped cage. Morrison knows all the characters in the sport, having seen some of the previous bouts.
He lets us know that in the "old days," nothing was off limits -- as in eye gauging, groin punching and the like. These days, it's apparently the cleaned-up version, maybe a bit more PG-13.
Regardless, Morrison still loves the intensity. This is coming from a guy who wears his emotions out for everyone to see -- a trait never more apparent then during the Zags' collapse against UCLA in Oakland when Morrison ended up crying with a couple of seconds still remaining. He essentially was spent emotionally on the final possession, a last-gasp 3-pointer by teammate J.P. Batista that missed.
"I put my whole heart into that one season and I let my emotions get to me, but I don't regret it," said Morrison, who shared the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year with Redick after leading the country in scoring at 28 points a game. "Some people make a big deal about it, but I guarantee that every guy that lost in the Tournament cried in the locker room. I couldn't hold it in. I've been told, 'Don't let that emotion leave,' and hopefully it doesn't. I use it to my advantage and play with that emotion every night. I hate losing and I'm competitive every night."
On the way back to the apartment, Morrison stops for a Togo's sandwich, his dinner staple. Back in Spokane, Morrison hired a nutritionist and a cook to prepare him meals that were delivered for dinner. During this stay in Woodland Hills, though, Morrison is eating two meals a day at 360 and having Togo's for dinner. He'll take a nutritionist/cook combo with him on the road during the season.
The group moves back to Morrison's apartment to watch Game 5 of the Detroit-Miami Eastern Conference finals and awaits a Topps trading cards rep seeking the hundreds of signatures for his trading card deal. Morrison, according to Mintz, is the only draft hopeful who has an exclusive deal with Topps. He chose that one over multiple deals with other companies. It is said to be a significant deal in the half-million-dollar range.
A guy named Joe, who essentially is the messenger for Topps, shows up with the packet of signature boxes for Morrison to sign. Joe, who is a race car driver from Indiana but now is an actor/model, with the same mop-style 'do as Morrison, fits right into the conversation. Morrison engages him about his race car driving background and then transitions the conversation into a variety of subjects, as he so often does.
"The only thing they ask is that you sign your [full] name," Morrison said. "When I sign a ball, I do it 'AM3,' but with these, I sign it."
Morrison admittedly is frugal. He has a plan to live off his endorsements for his first two seasons while saving his guaranteed salary, which will help him take care of his family. One of his older sisters, Brandie or Sara, will be living with him in whichever city he lands.
"The biggest thing for me is focusing on basketball and getting ready for the season, but this stuff is an added bonus and it's cool to be a part of it," Morrison said.
The humorous side of this signing situation is that each version of his first card will have a unique gift on it -- a piece of his draft-day suit.
"I found it kind of weird," Morrison said. "But I always liked getting a little memorabilia growing up. They asked me if I would care if they cut up my suit. I said, 'Go ahead, man.' I've only worn a suit twice in my life and both times, they were forced upon me. A collared shirt is as nice as I get."
Morrison's reps also are looking into roles for him as a spokesperson for a pharmaceutical company that makes drugs for diabetics. They are presently in discussions with three companies.
"I'd like to be a role model for kids and adults that have diabetes," Morrison said. "I've been put in that role after the past year. I didn't have a role model in athletics. At the end of the day, helping people out is what you want to do."
But first, getting to the NBA is the primary focus. He says he doesn't care about being No. 1 overall. But deep inside, he has to know that being the first choice would be the coolest thing on earth. As Morrison continued to sign and sign and sign and tried to fight end-of-the-day fatigue, he offered up this final thought as to why he's ready to play and contribute next season.
"I feel like my game is very NBA-oriented and I can create my own shot," he said. "I've done that the last three years in college. I've got the offensive skills. I've got the heart and the desire to play at the next level."
Morrison will crash soon and then be up again in the morning for another workout, preparing himself to be a star, on and off the court, in whichever city he lands.
|Morrison has the look and the personality to go with the game.|
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.