WASHINGTON — Markieff Morris is “kind of a laid back kind of guy,” but the Washington Wizards’ starting power forward has plenty on his mind.
Like teammate John Wall, the intense seven-game playoff series loss to the Boston Celtics stuck with him “the whole offseason.”
Morris also knows the rivalry, which gets a major spotlight on the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule, takes a new turn now that twin brother Marcus plays for the Celtics.
“I think it will be a liiiittle bit softer than it was, just a little bit,” Morris joked. “I think we’ll still have that rivalry because we don’t like those guys and they don’t like us. I don’t that should change with my brother on the team.”
Most of all, the 6-foot-10 big man coming off his best professional season is focused on a major life change coming in early September: fatherhood.
“I’m just waiting on her now. I know she’s going to be chill, laid back like me,” said the father-to-be.
That blessed event is rapidly approaching, followed by a mid-to-late September start to training camp and then the 2017-18 NBA season. That left just enough time for another of Morris’s passions.
That’s why the Wizards’ second-leading rebounder last season was at the Ridge Road Recreation Center in Southeast on Saturday afternoon, along with dozens of school-age kids. For the second year in a row, Morris, along with several members of his family, organized a backpack giveaway.
No flash, no corporate sponsors, but rows of colorful pop culture-themed backpacks plus several volunteers wearing t-shirts with Morris’s signature FOE – Family Over Everything — logo.
His mother and uncle are the main organizers. Former Kansas teammate and NBA veteran Thomas Robinson showed up to support Morris, who simply wants to help those in his new home, just as he did recently in his actual hometown of Philadelphia.
“Just wanted to give back to the kids. They’re the future. Show them anything is possible,” said Morris, who turns 28 on September 2.
He wanted these kids to have a memory of meeting a famous athlete — like one that stuck with him many years later from an encounter with another Philadelphia icon, Rasheed Wallace.
“Got to interact with him,” Morris recalled. “That’s the stuff that sticks with kids forever. They don’t forget stuff like that even when they get older.”
He certainly hasn’t forgotten about losing to Boston. The Celtics wrapped up the series on their home court in part because the Wizards let big leads on the road slip away in Games 1 and 2.
“We were one game from the Eastern Conference Finals. It was big for us. We let that one get by and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Morris said. “At the end of the day, I still feel like we were the better team… We came up short… Every game is going to be like a Game 7 against them this time.”
Every game against Boston will have a family element now that his brother plays for the Celtics. Boston landed Marcus Morris from Detroit in a deal that shipped starting guard Avery Bradley to the Pistons so the Celtics could clear up enough salary cap space for free agent Gordon Hayward.
The brothers were together in Philadelphia when the July 7 trade went down. Marcus broke the news early in the morning. Markieff sensed something was amiss.
“Usually he’d just come right in and tell me. I knew when [Marcus] asked to come outside the room I was like, ‘Yeah, there was something wrong,” Morris cracked. “I think that was the best move for him, honestly. You get to play for a great organization like Boston. That’s once in a lifetime. I’m happy for him. Really can’t wait until that Christmas game.”
The same goes for the upcoming season. Morris said he spent a chunk of the summer honing his game, including that streaky 3-point shot. He’s aiming for more scoring diversity and “staying more consistent” overall. Yet the tougher part of his offseason prep is obvious.
“Getting ready for the kid and staying up all night,” Morris said. “Basketball is natural… It’s something I’ve been doing 20 years of my life.”
We’ll see how laid back Morris remains after 20 days with a relentless newborn. Regardless, by that point it will be time for training camp and the new season. September won’t exactly be chill, but it’s a month he won’t soon forget.