Pelicans' Anthony Morrow opts out of his contract, becomes unrestricted free agent

Guard Anthony Morrow opted out of his contract with the Pelicans and became an unrestricted free agent, an NBA source confirmed Tuesday.

The source said Morrow opted out two weeks ago, but the move became official Tuesday, the first day NBA teams could sign free agents.

Morrow signed a two-year contract with the Pelicans last summer that carried an early termination option for the 2014-15 season. A career 42 percent 3-point shooter, he was coming off a 2012-13 season in which injuries slowed him while playing for the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks.

Morrow, a six-year veteran, played last season for the veteran minimum in a “prove-yourself” deal, and he could have played next season at a salary of $1,145,685. But prove himself, he did. With sixth-man Ryan Anderson out injured, Morrow filled a key role: Playing in 76 games, he averaged 8.4 points on 45.8 percent shooting, hitting at a 45.1 percent clip on 3-point attempts in 76 games.

He became a pivotal contributor in January when his playing time became more consistent after injuries to Anderson, starting point guard Jrue Holiday and center Jason Smith.

With Anderson coming back from neck surgery and the uncertainty that brings, re-signing Morrow appeared to be one of the Pelicans’ offseason priorities. General Manager Dell Demps said he wants Morrow back, but Demps also said he was willing to let the free agency process play out. Since Morrow is an unrestricted free agent, the Pelicans don’t have the right to match another team’s offer.

“He’s indicated that he liked it here,” Demps said. “We really liked him, so we’ll see.”

Morrow proved to be a veteran leader for one of the youngest teams in the league, exhibiting a strong work ethic after practice and a professional presence in the locker room. Beginning in March, he ramped up his performance as his role increased. During a 10-game stretch beginning with a 27-point outing in a victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 26, he scored 20 points or more five times and was in double figures eight times.

Coach Monty Williams said Morrow came a long way on the other end of the court.

“We challenged him to become a weakside defender,” he said. “He had to adjust to our system and what we were trying to do.”

The Detroit Pistons are scheduled to meet with Morrow, the Detroit News reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified source.

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