Monte Morris was a reliable floor general in his five years in Denver after he was drafted by now Timberwolves’ basketball boss Tim Connelly.
Morris is an elite decision-maker who can run an offense and knock down an open shot, all while either starting or coming off the bench.
That player Connelly watched for those years in Denver is a slam dunk to fill Minnesota’s reserve guard role behind Mike Conley — if that’s the player Morris can be for the Timberwolves.
That’s not a guarantee, given Morris is coming off a quadriceps injury that’s sidelined him for much of the season. He was cleared to return to play in late January but played only sparingly in Detroit before being traded to Minnesota.
“There’s definitely going to be a break-in period for him. He’s coming onto the on-ramp, everyone is going 85 miles an hour,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told reporters. “It’s just going to take him some time, but he’s a dedicated pro, he’s super excited to come. And I’m sure all the motivation will be there to help us down the stretch here in a big way.”
That much was evident on Morris’ face during the guard’s introductory press conference Friday. “I thank God every day, just as I was able to fight through this long process with my injury, being hurt before the season, not really knowing when I would get back this season and everything,” Morris said. “So when the trade went down, I was just happy. My family was happy, just to come to this culture that’s really been going well since the beginning of the year.
“I’m just here to add on to it and help and get in the playoffs and make a deep run. That’s my main focus, just to come here and just add on to what’s already good. So I appreciate Tim for making the deal and putting me in position to get back to playoff basketball and doing what I know.”
Morris and Connelly both insinuated the guard would be ready to contribute when the Wolves play against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday in a critical Western Conference showdown.
How effective can Morris be with whatever minutes he receives? That’s an important question, particularly in an important game like Monday’s. Morris already has to adjust to new teammates and a new scheme. Now, he has to do it while also getting back into playing shape.
“I was out for a long period of time, so realistically, I would say I just need to ramp up my strength and conditioning stuff as far as running,” Morris said. “I played in games. I’m not dead tired, but I know there’s another notch I can get to, and I know I can get to that real, real soon.”
One sign for optimism: Morris said he was able to do “a lot” in practice with the Pistons earlier this week.
“I got up and down, felt good. I think my biggest thing is just ramping up and getting back to Monte. I’ve just got to trust everything, because I’m fully healed,” Morris said. “I’ve just got to do what I do, and I think that should be nothing hard to do. I’ve just got to keep getting the reps and I should be able to get back to that in no time.”