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Witnessing Adam Morrison's Comeback First Hand: KK Red Star Belgrade vs. KK Cedevita

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Box Score.

Highlights via MrRedStarBelgrade.

Don't act like you haven't looked at it. When you were bored of pouring through lockout news, you clicked on a link like this one or this one, and you found yourself watching Adam Morrison again. Not the Adam Morrison that had sloppily stumbled through a terrible NBA career, but the Adam Morrison the nation came to love at Gonzaga. The one that scored points like they were nothing, played with a burning passion, and even cried on occasion.

But how seriously can his comeback be taken? Watching pixely highlight videos over the internet is one thing, but you can't really tell how serious his comeback attempt is until you see him play for an extended time or see him play in person.

So, I decided to see him play in person.

But before I get into how his play was, let me provide you with a bit of background info.

The team Morrison plays for, Red Star Belgrade, is a local sports club that fields teams for several sports, but generally exists as the Clippers to the Lakers of KK Partizan. This season, they aren't qualified for continental competition, but they do participate in the Adriatic League. The Adriatic League provides strong competition for the more powerful clubs in Bosnia, Croatia, Israel, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. They then participate in their respective domestic leagues during the Spring.

In other words, the team isn't terrible, but it's not spectacular, either. They play in a stadium that holds just over 8,000 people, somewhere near the heart of Belgrade, Serbia. The stadium has no high class suites or high tech equipment. In fact, the owner of the team enters through the same place all fans enter the arena, and there is no video board.

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The stadium environment is extremely intense. Even when the arena isn't full, the fans are passionate and always ready to go on the attack. In fact, I'd argue the crowd gets much louder after a perceived bad call than they do after a great play. They get especially angry when the opposing team celebrates, and they often throw objects on the playing surface.

The team environment is much different as well. I can't comment much on what I can't see, but Adam Morrison summed it up well himself when he said, "It's more like college, you get up at 6 and practice at 7 in the morning, get chewed out, yelled at, and then go to class and then come back, so I'm used to that part."

Ironically, he didn't seem to be used to the environment at all. During the pre-game warm-ups, Adam Morrison looked disconnected. As is common in European basketball, the entire team was doing stretches before the game, much as you would in P.E. or Tae Kwon Do class. Morrison really didn't seem interested in doing the stretches, at first half-assing them and then completely ignoring them. Afterwards, the team began to do warm-up runs, and after falling far behind, Morrison gave up and took a shot of insulin. I'm not trying to judge on whether his lackadaisical attitude before the game was a result of his diabetes or not. Just reporting the facts.

Regardless of all that, Morrison's game was dreadful. An absolute abomination. I can't recall one time, even when he scored, where I felt sincerely good about what he was doing. Every single aspect of his game, whether it be his shooting, passing, shot selection, rebounding, defense, teamwork, or floor positioning had severe problems with it.

Offense is normally Morrison's forte, but he couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo tonight. He missed several shots from his usual sweet spots, and badly. But his bad night can't just be blamed on being cold from the floor. Morrison was terrible at getting to his spot on the floor, usually resulting in a late pass from a teammate that stuck him in an unwinnable situation with his defender. Additionally, when he tried to create for himself, he was often too slow in doing so, forcing himself into a really tough layup or terrible shot.

When distributing the ball, he was equally terrible. A particularly terrible turnover happened when Morrison was passing to the point guard in the back court after grabbing a rebound, completely unaware of Chris Warren waiting for the easy steal and basket. His other passes were basic at best, often passing to players that were in trouble or otherwise not in a position to score.

Speaking of awareness, his offensive awareness left a lot to be desired. When he wasn't directly fed the ball, he would do little to contribute to the play, often lurking on the perimeter, doing nothing to shake his defender.

His defense was more atrocious than his offense. We all know that Adam Morrison is a terrible defender to begin with, but tonight he re-defined bad defending. His slow footwork and terrible awareness combined to give Cedevita several wide open shots. Sometimes he'd miss an assignment altogether, or be far too late to have any real effect. His tendency to float around and not run the length of the floor didn't help, either.

Morrison's rebounding was too terrible for words. All I really have to say is that he lost defensive rebounds in the paint to guys shorter and scrawnier than him several times.

In the greater scheme of the game, Morrison finished with a -11 +/- ratio. It's not that terrible for a normal player, but considering he almost single-handedly crashed the team's lead several times, it's worse than the number indicates.

The question, I suppose, is why he had such a despicable game. Didn't he have an excellent 30 Point game against Union Olimpija? How about his 23 Points on 75% shooting against Hemofarm? Well, yes, he did have some excellent nights. And I'm not trying to take away from what Adam Morrison can be at his best. But he does have a terrible side, as we saw tonight and in his 3 points on 17% shooting against Buducnost.

Okay, so suppose we take Adam Morrison at his best, and assume he can somehow sustain that. Can he make it back to the NBA? Anything is possible. But, in order for this to happen, you've got to do it on a consistent basis. There are scores of players who have gone over to the Adriatic League, or other leagues of a similar caliber, and succeeded. Take Chris Warren, for example. He's had several successful seasons in Europe, at times going off for more than 30 points. But he hasn't even come close to sniffing the NBA. You most likely haven't heard his name uttered once, unless you followed ACC basketball in the early 2000s. Heck, even a guy who has had sustained success at the highest level in Europe, like Bobby Brown or Bo McCalebb, will struggle to find a position in the NBA. There are Jamario Moons out there, but they are few and far between.

So, there is a route to the NBA for Adam Morrison, and other hopefuls like him. But, you have to look at it in perspective. Red Star Belgrade is a nice club supported by excellent people, but it's talent, facilities, and fan base are a far cry from that of even the worst NBA teams. In order for Red Star Belgrade to become a Euroleague A-Licensed club (basically getting free entry into the Euroleague every year), they would need to win on a much more consistent basis and vastly expand their fan base. It's not impossible, but it's not probable, either. Unfortunately, that's exactly how far Adam Morrison has to go in order to be back on an NBA level. Much as Red Star Belgrade, he's not even in the third tier of European competition. And his team in still losing on the level they're at, with a 1-3 Adriatic league record coming out of this game.

Thus, for now, we'll have to stick to watching fuzzy videos of faraway foreign lands, wondering what could have been.

And under normal circumstances, most writers would leave it on that note. But I don't want to. I think it needs to be said that Adam Morrison totally threw himself into a situation he knew almost nothing about (evidence here), and he has found successes. The local fans love him, giving him the loudest cheer during warmups and even occasionally chanting his name. He was more than "in the way" tonight basketball-wise, but culturally he is a valuable commodity, and he's still a joy to watch. Whether or not he finds success in the NBA doesn't, in my book, determine whether he's a success or failure. The terms are meaningless. All that matters from a my standpoint is that he is leading an excellent team and entertaining an excellent crowd like they've never been entertained before. Sometimes, at least.

If that isn't the Adam Morrison way, then I don't know what is.

Do you think Adam Morrison will ever make it back to the NBA? Vote in the poll, post a comment!