Health and opportunity haven’t exactly gone hand in hand in the first four years of Monte Morris’s NBA career, but the hope is that happens in his fifth season.
Morris said he’s battled knee tendonitis for as long as he’s been a Nugget and played through pain last postseason when he was tasked with replacing Jamal Murray.
“It bothered me throughout the year up and down, but especially in the Portland series,” Morris said Tuesday as the Nuggets held their first media availability ahead of next week’s training camp in San Diego. “It was bothering me the whole series, so we just had to get that done and move forward in the right direction.”
The plan was to get the knee fixed before Murray tore his ACL, and he stuck to it. After nine or 10 weeks of rehab, Morris, the presumptive starting point guard until Murray’s return, is excited to show how much more there is to his game with a healthy knee underneath him. He mentioned attacking the rim and using his body to help him finish. Last season, he made 59.1% of his attempts around the rim, just above the league average, according to statmuse.
“I got a lot of stuff that I can bring out and do that y’all haven’t even really seen yet. I’m looking forward to just being able to be that guy that can get downhill and create for myself and others, because sometimes I would shy away from it,” Morris said, remembering sharp pains he would feel during games.
“I’m just happy that I’m just being able to be explosive and stop when I want to and things like that. That’s what I really want to implement and show y’all.”
Ten extra pounds probably won’t hurt that cause. Morris said he’s preparing for the season weighing around 183 after playing last year around 173 or 174. That weight, he said, is not a byproduct of an offseason on the couch.
“I feel like I got way more stuff with me being stronger,” Morris said.
“It’s all been good. It’s not just regular weight.”
Regarded as a steady and smart point guard after four years at Iowa State, Morris averaged 10.2 points and 3.2 assists with just 0.7 turnovers last season, his fourth in the NBA. That included highs like a 28-point performance in a double-overtime win over Portland in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series but playing at or near that level consistently was a challenge alongside his health.
“I know it’s tough for 82 games, but I got to have that challenge for myself to at least be close to that,” Morris said acknowledging his shot won’t fall every night.
“I just got to hold myself accountable.”
The primary goal is to showcase his ability to lead the team to wins. That’s important for the Nuggets with Murray on an indefinite schedule as he rehabs from his April injury.
“We can’t wait to have him back, but nothing changed on our end. Coach Malone always says we expect to win every night no matter who is out there. We all know our team, our team’s system,” Morris said.
“I have an opportunity right now. We just got to hold this thing down.”