GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Most of the Knicks are hoping for a fresh start, an opportunity to reach another level, as they embark on another rebuilding season. But for Marcus Morris, opening night in San Antonio might be a harsh way to begin anew.
As a free agent, Morris made a verbal commitment to the Spurs in July, prompting the team to trade a valuable young player, Davis Bertans, to Washington to make room for him. But Morris, who had agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Spurs, instead opted for a one-year, $15 million guarantee with the Knicks, leaving the Spurs to pick up the pieces and giving the fans something to boo about when the Knicks open their season Oct. 23 in San Antonio.
“It was more than difficult to lose Davis,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters at the start of camp this week. “Let’s just say that was an unfortunate situation that was handled unprofessionally on a couple of different levels. We made that move to make the signing that we did and got blindsided.”
Morris, the initiator of the problems, took the high road Thursday.
“I was very surprised, but I have nothing but respect for Pop,” Morris said of the “unprofessional” comment. “I’m not going to sit up here and say anything. Obviously, they made a big move and on my side, things weren’t clear for me, so I made a decision based on what I knew and for my family. I hope them nothing but the best going forward this season. I’m in New York now. I’m just ready to get started.
“I got a lot of roots down there, a lot of Kansas guys — guys that went to Kansas. At the end of the day, yeah, because they made a move and they had a great young player and I feel bad that it had to happen that way. But at the end of the day, I’m here to focus on the New York Knicks.”
Morris explained earlier this week that he felt he rushed into the decision to commit to the Spurs and that a part of the decision to sign with the Knicks was a desire to return closer to home. He grew up in Philadelphia.
The 30-year-old forward, entering his ninth season and having been through plenty already, including the strange season that transpired in Boston when he was with the Celtics in 2018-19, has little worries about what awaits him in San Antonio.
“I’m from North Philly, man,” he said. “You’re talking about a crowd. You boo me, you boo me. Hey, I’ve been booed before. At the end of the day, I have nothing but love for Pop and R.C. [Buford, the Spurs’ CEO] and [Spurs general manager] Brian Wright and them guys down there. I know them personally and I’m sad it had to happen that way, but it’s the NBA.
"I made that decision and it was all on me. I made the decision myself and, like I said, I made the decision off of unknown situations from things that me and my agent had discussed. At the end of the day, I wanted to take my career in my own hands and that’s the decision I made.”
Morris may endear himself to the home crowd in New York, though. Asked what he wants this roster to be, he didn’t point to any of his former stops in the NBA. Instead, he went back in Garden history.
“Old-school Knicks. Protect the Garden,” Morris said. “My biggest thing is no one’s coming in there and disrespecting us. If anything, if you come in here, you’re going to get a hard-fought game. The better team is going to win, but we’re not tolerating no disrespect and no one coming in here thinking it’s going to be easy. That’s the first and foremost. I think we got the guys — Matter of fact, I know we got the guys — that’s going to stand up and that’s going to fight every night.”
Notes & quotes: Bernard King spoke to the team before practice and sat with RJ Barrett afterward. Bill Bradley also was on hand. John Starks and Herb Williams attended Wednesday’s late practice session.