With the 2013-14 season quickly nearing its close, guard Anthony Morrow’s days with the New Orleans Pelicans could be numbered.
That’s not because he doesn’t fit into the team’s plans. However, Morrow, whose season with the Pelicans has gotten better as it has gone on, has a player option for next year. He can opt out of his contract, which has only next year left for $1,145,085. Morrow made $1,027,424 this season, the veterans minimum and a steal considering what he has brought to the team.
“I don’t even think about that,” said Morrow when asked if he expected to be back with the Pelicans next season. “I’m just trying to focus on winning these last few games. But I appreciate this opportunity because it’s been a blessing for me.”
Morrow has averaged just 7.7 points this season, but that average has been compiled even with playing spotty minutes during the season’s first half. He is shooting 45.0 percent on 3-point attempts, his specialty. That percentage is even better than his impressive career average of 42.8 percent and his best showing since the 2009-10 season, his second in the league, when he shot 45.6 with the Golden State Warriors.
During a recent stretch in which he was pressed into the starting lineup because of injuries to the starting backcourt of Brian Roberts and Eric Gordon, Morrow averaged 16.1 points, scoring 20 points or more in three of four games. He also has shown a penchant for hitting big shots and for shaking off bad starts.
He scored 26 points in Friday’s loss at Utah, making nine of 11 shots, including all three 3-point tries.
Coach Monty Williams left no doubt he’d like to have Morrow back, although he seemed prepared for what may be inevitable.
“Anytime you can resign guys who can shoot the ball well, it’s got to be a priority,” Williams said.
“But you can’t fight what the league is going to do. I’m sure there are other teams around the league right now who are looking at him as a guy they want to add.
“I’m sure (general manager) Dell (Demps) and his staff are looking at all those options.”
Morrow said it has been a gratifying season, coming back from last season. In 2012-13, he had hip and back injuries and played in just 41 games. He was traded twice — before the season to Atlanta and then at the trading deadline to Dallas.
“When I was working out last summer, I definitely felt like I had something to prove,” he said.
Power forward Ryan Anderson is set to have surgery Tuesday on two herniated disks in his neck.
He was injured in a collision with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace on Jan. 3 in Boston. Anderson sat out for two months with the hope the injury would heal on its own. However, it did not.
He has sought the opinion of a number of doctors, and on March 17 met with Pelicans management to discuss his future. The team announced March 25 that Anderson had decided to have surgery, the option which was determined to give him the best chance at a full recovery.
At the time he was injured, Anderson led the Pelicans in scoring at 19.8 points per game and was second in rebounding at 6.5. He shot 40.9 percent on 3-point attempts after finishing second in the NBA in 3-pointers made last season.
Perhaps as important, Williams and teammates say, is Anderson’s leadership and spirit have been sorely missed.
He is in the second year of a four-year, $34 million contract he received in a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic after being chosen the league’s Most Improved Player.
Pelicans 7-foot-2 center Alexis Ajinça has had his share of embarrassing moments in the past few games.
First, with 3 minutes, 52 seconds left in the third quarter of the loss to the Sacramento Kings on March 31, Ajinça rolled to the basket, caught a pass and leaped high. However, he missed the dunk.
The Pelicans trailed 72-64, and the dunk would have cut the lead to six. Perhaps, just as important is the impact it would have had on the crowd, which was very energetic during the recent homestand, with the team winning four games.
“Alexis missed a dunk. … I know he felt bad about that,” Williams said. “When you have a play like that, you almost feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle all night long.”
Then, in the Pelicans’ next game, on Wednesday at the Denver Nuggets, it may have been worse. Ajinça went up for a dunk on a fast break, and it was blocked by the Nuggets’ Aaron Brooks. A point guard.
“I hadn’t gotten up that high in a while,” Brooks said.
And for Ajinça , likely not that low.