As J.A. mentioned in his recap, Morrow seems to be working the post ups now. This is good, because Morrow is a really good scorer. It’s hard to believe as a Thunder fan, because Morrow has always been restricted to a 3 and D role. But Morrow can attack! Back in Morrow’s Golden State days, he was used much more to attack the basket. Check out this quick highlight reel from Morrow’s rookie year. Right at the beginning, Morrow crosses over KD and scores at the basket. KD has always been known as a versatile defender, so it just shows how much skill Morrow has always had. Also, you can see Morrow post up Mike Conley and Baron Davis in this video.
I’d like to highlight one of the quotes within the video for a second.
“[Anthony Morrow] is one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached.” -Don Nelson
This quote is significant because of who it comes from. If you have no idea who Don Nelson is, here’s the Readers’ digest version. Don Nelson played with Bill Russell’s Celtics back in the 60s. Upon retirement from playing, Don Nelson coached from the mid-70s until the late 2000s. Nelson is a member of the hall of fame, and has the most total wins of any NBA coach. This is despite never winning a championship. But to be completely fair, the best player Don Nelson ever got the opportunity to coach was probably Dirk Nowitzki, and he’s no world-beating superstar.
Anyway, Don Nelson is famous for two things.
The first thing is inventing the “point forward”. This concept may seem absurd now. But before the 1980s, forwards were primarily seen as post players. They rebounded, they posted up. Even the small forwards who would face up, like Elgin Baylor, worked primarily within 16 feet of the basket. And Baylor was a legendary rebounder at the small forward position. But Don Nelson was an innovator, and saw opportunity by bringing forwards further out from the basket. Nelson accounted for this lack of rebounding by letting his point guards and shooting guards handle a good deal of rebounding. (Basically, if there was no Don Nelson-style innovation, there would be no Thunder. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant were most definitely point forwards.) But I’ve even looked at it. In the 1980-81 season, arguably Nelson’s first successful season as a coach, something struck me. Starting Buck point guard, Quinn Buckner, had the second most rebounds per game of any point guard that season. Starting Buck shooting guard, Sidney Moncrief, tied for third best shooting guard when it came to rebounds per game. Meanwhile, two small forwards who were a big part of the Bucks rotation, Marques Johnson and Junior Bridgeman, occasionally took and made threes. Both players were also known for knocking down longer-range twos. (The three point line was implemented just a season prior. Nobody had grown up shooting threes, so it’s impressive that anyone was taking them at all.)
The second thing is being notoriously tough on rookies.
I find this pretty funny, because Anthony Morrow was on the same team, and Nelson had much kinder words for Morrow. To be fair, Morrow had a better three point shooting percentage that year than Curry. But Don Nelson played to win, and he never played rookies. So even though it was a losing season, it’s very telling that Nelson happened to play Morrow only 6 minutes less than he played Curry per game.
And if you need any proof of Nelson’s hate of rookies, check out this on point rant from Bleacher Report in 2008.
Because Nelson suffers from extreme rookie paranoia, guard Marco Belinelli, who was supposed to be a big deal in the jump-shooting area, almost never gets into games.
Sometimes he doesn't even get into a uniform. There are times he sits behind the Warriors bench, behind it, dressed in a sports coat, looking like a player's little brother or nerdy young cousin who scored a special pass to the game and autographs from all the real players.
What happened to Belinelli isn't the real sin. What Nelson did to Brandan Wright is. Wright is the forward/center who was supposed to be the answer to Nelson's dreams. He's a fast, mobile, dynamic big guy who can score and rebound, and he's been a bench warmer all season long.
Why? Because Nelson doesn't like rookies. God forbid Nelson would have put Wright into games to get him ready. God forbid Nelson would have prepared Wright for times like these when Biedrins is down and the Warriors are in grim form.
Well, sure, Nelson prepared for times like these. He got Webber. Webber arrived and we heard all the hearts and flowers sing, dance, and men achieving maturity and becoming fully evolved with deep sensitivity and learning too. But one question. Can the guy play? Can Webber be the man when Biedrins isn't around? The answer is No, No, and No. Webber retiring is the answer too!
After Wright played 10 minutes against the Sixers and impressed everyone, then and only then did Nelson admit to reporters, "I didn't know if (Wright) would be ready this year, but maybe he proved me wrong. Some of the things he does are things that we need."
Hit me in the head please!
Nelson missed the boat with Wright as he always does with rookies. He should have prepared Wright for this make-or-break moment of the Warriors' season. Unfortunately, he was looking in another direction.
Sure, Don Nelson was a little bit of a fool at times. But Morrow was on a team with Marco Bellinelli and Steph Curry, at the same stage of development. And Morrow was considered to be the best shooter.
Meanwhile, Don Nelson made the statement that Morrow is the best shooter he’s EVER coached. Here’s the best shooters who came in second place to Morrow: Dirk Nowitzki, Hubert Davis, Doug Christie, John Starks, Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, Dennis Scott, Michael Finley, Steve Nash, Howard Eisley, Nick Van Exel, Antawn Jamison, Jason Terry, Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson, and Monta Ellis.
That’s got to mean something. So I’m totally on the Morrow minutes train. I’ve heard enough refrains from Brian Davis about how Morrow goes to practice threes at midnight. The dude signed a contract with OKC to play, and he’s hardly played. Meanwhile, Kanter gets away with defensive play that just doesn’t make sense. Morrow is merely physically limited. I’d rather bench Kanter, dish him for a 3 and D guy, and use Lauvergne with Morrow at this point. Who’s gonna make us pay? The Clippers? Morrow can start a duel with Jamal Crawford, no sweat.
The Thunder need players that play smart. Kevin Durant always played a bit too selfishly, while Westbrook was racking up countless assists. Now, the Thunder are dealing with a headache in Kanter’s defensive positioning. The Thunder went to the finals with Derek Fisher as backup point guard, and Nazr Mohammed as backup center. This team was built on solid defense in the paint, and it’s about time Westbrook got the shooting help he needs.