With the Washington Wizards’ season concluded, we’re reviewing the team, position-by-position. We’ve already covered the shooting guards, the small forwards and the point guards. Now, let’s look at the forwards who stretched the floor and provided the power: Markieff Morris and Mike Scott.
Midway through the season, Markieff Morris had grown fed up with the injury talk.
Before the season began, the 28-year-old required sports hernia surgery that forced him to miss training camp, the preseason and the first six games of the regular season. (He then was suspended for the Wizards’ seventh game after leaving the bench during the Oct. 27 scuffle between Bradley Beal and Golden State’s Draymond Green.) Although Morris played through rust and conditioning issues, he flashed signs of his old self. In early January, when Morris was in the midst of his best rebounding streak of the season, pulling down double figures in four straight games, he shut down questions about his fitness.
“I’m done talking about my health,” Morris said after tying his career best with 17 rebounds. “I’m back.”
Bold words, but the declaration proved a bit premature.
Morris, who just completed his second full season in Washington, never quite made it back to being the player the Wizards needed him to be. Morris contributed just five double-doubles in the regular season and pulled down at least 10 rebounds in just six games. Washington wanted to be a team that hoisted at least 30 three-pointers per game, and it expected the 6-foot-10 Morris to help with those attempts as a stretch-four. Morris’s shooting and scoring improved each month, but he took only 11 more three-point attempts (207) compared with last season. (He did play three fewer games.)
During the Wizards’ first-round playoff loss to the Toronto Raptors, Morris made 2 of 12 shots from beyond the arc and scored in double figures just twice in six games.
After his team’s elimination, Morris conceded that it took longer than expected to get into shape after his sports hernia surgery and revealed that he also underwent a procedure on his groin.
“I had another surgery, too. Kept that quiet for the most part,” said Morris, who also dealt with an ankle injury stemming from last year’s playoffs. “It took me a while, but it be like that. … I wasn’t complaining. I just knew it would take a while to overcome those injuries.”
Morris should come into next season with the benefit of better health. Also, his offseason shouldn’t be as eventful as last year’s: In addition to the surgeries, Morris became a father and was acquitted in his aggravated assault case in Phoenix. Although Morris should have a more peaceful summer as he prepares for his contract season, his vision for improvement contrasts with his coach’s.
Scott Brooks believes the team can benefit from taking more three-pointers next year, but Morris pictures himself in a more interior, tough-guy role while playing center in the team’s small lineup.
“One thing I need to do more is play more bully ball, because the league has changed. The best teams are switching five. I need to get that part of my game to a ‘T,’ ” Morris said. “You look at the better teams in the league: They all switch five. Not too many bigs bully, especially at the four position. … Got to get to a point where teams are not allowed to switch on me and take advantage of it.”
Off the bench: Mike Scott
Mike Scott came to the Wizards as an enigma. In the previous season, he had appeared in just 18 games with the Atlanta Hawks while recovering from an injury and facing felony drug charges. In July, when the Wizards signed Scott to a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum (the drug charges were dropped before he reached free agency), he appeared to be a low-gamble risk, but Washington hit the jackpot as Smith provided instant offense off the bench.
“I told Coach Brooks I was surprised and shocked how I played during the season,” Scott said. “Even shocked myself sometimes. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Still grateful.”
In 76 games, Scott averaged 8.8 points and improved that number to 10.8 during the postseason. Before the Wizards bowed out, Scott led all players in the postseason in field goal percentage (with a minimum of 30 shot attempts) at 63.4 percent.
During the regular season, Scott had stretches as the hottest shooter on the roster. In December, he connected on 61.5 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from the three-point arc. Much like Morris, Scott developed into a center when necessary and played stretches against Toronto at the five.
Scott will enter free agency again but, after a comeback season in Washington, he should attract attention from other teams.
“I think he’s had a great year. He’s done a lot of great things for us; he was a great pickup,” Brooks said. “Did not know much about him; just a true professional. Worked hard, gave us everything he had, had a lot of good moments, but he’s another player that should continue to get better. He’s been healthy all year, which was good news for him, and it was also good news for us. He really had a good, surprising year for us. I didn’t know much about him, but like I said, he’s a pro. Comes in and does his work every day.”