Soon to be free agent, former KU forward Morris ends season with impressive outing

Former Kansas forward Marcus Morris enters free agency this NBA offseason as a 34-year-old, 13-year veteran who has played for eight teams.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward from Philadelphia need not dig deep into his personal archives to show his potential value to a franchise.

Evidence that he’s not over-the-hill and may be worthy of a one- or two-year deal comes in his final game of the 2023-24 season.

Morris scored 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting and secured three rebounds while playing 33 minutes Wednesday in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 113-98 season-ending loss to the Boston Celtics in Game Five of a second-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Morris — he played just 30 minutes in the Cavs’ previous four playoff games — did not see action via coach’s decision in Game 4. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who some say is on the hot seat entering the postseason, may be second-guessing himself for not playing Morris more versus the Celtics, considering Morris went 5-of-6 from 3-point range in Game 5.

The Celtics won the series four games to one.

“I honestly expected to play a little bit more, not just today but throughout the series,” said Morris, who has not yet announced whether he plans on returning for season No. 14 in the NBA.

He spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s loss in Boston.

“I thought I could’ve helped the team and affect the game a little bit more,” he said. “But just being a veteran, staying ready. That’s always been me since I’ve been in the league — just staying ready, being professional. Then when my time’s called, being able to deliver and help my team.”

Morris started the season with Philadelphia then was traded to San Antonio. After being waived by the Spurs, Morris, the twin brother of Dallas Mavericks forward Markieff Morris, signed a 10-day contract with the Cavaliers. And when that deal expired, he signed on for the rest of the season.

Morris was not awarded any playing time in the first two games of a first-round series against Orlando, won by Cleveland 4-3. He played nine minutes in Game 3 and five in Game 4. The Cavs lost both after opening the series 2-0.

Bickerstaff called on Morris for 26 minutes in Game 5. He responded with 12 points in a Cavs’ victory. He had two points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes in the Cavs’ Game 6 defeat. He did not score in seven minutes in a clinching Game 7 victory over the Magic.

“I worked my (tail) off for moments like this,” Morris said after Game 5 of the Orlando series. “So throughout the entire year for me as being a 13-year veteran, I put a lot of time into my body and my mental situations like that to be able to come in and just help the team.”

Morris’ performance in the elimination game of the Celtics series actually goes down as one of his best efforts in a playoff contest. His 25 points tied for his second-most in a game in his postseason career.

He scored 25 points as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers against the Utah Jazz on June 16, 2021. He scored a career-high (in postseason) 26 points for the Clippers on June 30, 2021 against the Phoenix Suns.

“I’m not that old,” Morris, who turns 35 on Sept. 2, told reporters. “Honestly it was a little hard,” he added of his role in the postseason.

“I haven’t not played before,” he explained. “This is the first time I haven’t actually touched the floor (much in playoffs). It was a little hard. I knew I could help in some kind of capacity, physicality, being a veteran, a voice, whatever it was. I just kept my mental together, kept working. We got up and down every day (in the gym) so it kind of kept my shape right.”

Morris, the No. 14 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft (by Houston) following three seasons at KU, actually played for the Celtics in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

“A couple years back, being a part of this team, with a lot of the guys that actually are here now, they’ve got some great players,” Morris said of the Celtics after Wednesday’s game. “They’ve got some dogs. I think they’re definitely suited to make a good run. They get the big fella (Kristaps Porzingis) back, I think they’ll be a problem (the rest of playoffs).”

Porzingis suffered a calf injury in the first-round series against Miami.

In 2018, Morris’ Celtics team lost to Cleveland in seven games. Celts’ standout Jayson Tatum was a rookie during that 2017-18 campaign.

“I think it’s just more than this year,” Morris said of Tatum’s development. “He’s been super aggressive. He’s being a leader. It’s just good to watch him grow. Just having a relationship with him when he came in as a rookie and just seeing how quickly things change.”

As far as Morris’ future ... Bickerstaff sounds like he’d be in favor of the veteran returning to Cleveland. Morris could be at the stage of his career he might consider signing for a veterans minimum deal spanning one season.

“He just brings a level of respect that there may be only five to 10 guys that carry in this league,” Bickerstaff told “There is a no-nonsense approach, a physicality that he’s allowed to play with, but then you match that with a skillset with his ability to create shots and put the ball in the basket. When he speaks, because he’s a quiet person, people listen.’’

Bickerstaff added to “There are a lot of guys in this league that just do a lot of (talking) and aren’t willing to back it up. Marcus is willing to lay it on the line and he has the courage to fight through whatever it may be.

“Take the shot, make the pass, box out, whatever it is. He’s not going to duck in the moment and when he talks, it’s not lip service. People listen and he’s got that reputation and respect around the league.”