As a high school senior in 2004, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Anthony Morrow wasn’t a consensus top 100 national recruit. He had led Charlotte Latin to back-to-back N.C. Independent Schools state championships, averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. He was named Charlotte Observer player of the year for the second straight season and was named Mr. Basketball in North Carolina.
He said he never saw the NBA coming.
“One thing I learned from (high school) coach (Jerry) Faulkner was to not worry about anything in the future,” Morrow said. “To just worry about today.”
That mentality landed him at Georgia Tech and at Golden State in 2008 as an undrafted rookie. He was with the Warriors when they drafted Stephen Curry from Davidson in 2009. Morrow, a 6-foot-6 3-point specialist, has averaged 11 points in his NBA career that’s also included stops at New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans. He’s entering the second of a three-year deal with OKC, where he plays with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, arguably two of the NBA’s top five players. Monday night, Morrow, 29, spoke with the Observer’s Langston Wertz Jr. about his pro-am summer league at J.C. Smith, Curry, LeBron James, the NBA finals and great shooters. His answers are edited for brevity.
What do you remember about Stephen Curry as a rookie at Golden State?
He was pretty much the same as his now, the same as he was at Charlotte Christian: laid back, hard working. I don’t know if people knew how competitive he was, though. He always had that chip on his shoulder and always had that confidence that he has. I knew he’d be really good, an all-star, and he’s exceeding expectations and improving. I think the ceiling is high. He’s got a lot left in the tank. It’s fun to watch and I’m proud of him.
What happens with these NBA finals Tuesday night?
I really think Cleveland is going to win and there will be a Game 7. LeBron has been unbelievable. He’s taken his game to an entirely different level. But it comes down to JR (Smith) and Iman (Shumpert) to get hot again. They have to get hot at the same time.
What are your thoughts on LeBron, having seen him up close and personal?
Unbelievably talented and strong and athletic and can handle the ball and he’s probably got the highest basketball IQ of anybody in NBA. He doesn’t have a weakness. There’s a few guys in the league who are intimidating, but with LeBron, once his mind is made up it’s hard. He’s probably the most unstoppable guy when he makes his mind up.
Next season, a healthy Oklahoma City with KD and Westbrook could end up facing Curry’s Warriors in, say, a Western Conference finals, right?
That would be great. We definitely feel like we’re one of the better teams in the league when healthy. With that said, on paper we look great, but we’ve all got to put in the work. I’m excited. We know we can be there, but the main thing is not thinking about the future, taking it one day and one game at a time, building trust and camaraderie, which we already have off the court.
What are KD and Westbrook like, being teammates with them?
Those guys are always the first guys in the gym every morning. They try to beat each other. I got the point where I was trying to compete to get there before them. Russell is probably the most prompt player I’ve ever played with. He’s always early and never late to anything. He’s the best professional I’ve played with. I don’t think people know that or he gets enough credit for that because of the celebrations and how he’s so passionate. But there’s a reason he had the season he had last year (Westbrook was an MVP finalist). That guy works really hard and he’s very, very competitive, and he’s a great friend off the court.
Kev is the same way. Competitive. They’re both good family guys. They work and they work and they work. When you see the two best players and probably two top five guys in the NBA working hard, getting treatment, eating right, everyone else falls in line. Me coming in as a vet, I can appreciate that.
How did you get involved with the Pro-Am summer league?
I always played in it, in high school and in college and coach (and organizer Brett) Badgett came to me and asked if I would ever think about sponsoring and putting my name on it and trying to revamp it. It had a rough period around 2010 and it wasn’t as good. We started in 2011 and it’s been great for the community and it has the family atmosphere we were trying for. I put my name on it and my money into it. This year, (Hornet) PJ Hairston is coming and in the past we have had Steph, Seth (Curry), Kimba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, (former Clemson star) Trevor Booker (of the Utah Jazz), (Miami Heat center) Hassan Whiteside. There’s been a good turnout. A lot of guys are in and out of town, but while they’re here, I want to have a good league we can all play in.
NCAA men’s basketball is going to a 30-second shot clock. You like that?
Yeah, I think they should. I think they should have four quarters (instead of two halves). Everything should be European or NBA rules. I think everybody knows the problem with college: they don’t score as much. The 30-second shot clock will be good, but they should go to 24, in my opinion.
You were the first rookie to lead the league in 3-point field-goal shooting in 2008 (nearly 47 percent) and you’re a career 43 percent shooter from out there. Who’s the best shooter around?
Most days, I try to get 300 or 400 makes in the offseason. So I’m putting my money on me. If I had to choose somebody to shoot a shot, a game-winner? That’s tough, man. Steph, Kyle Korver (of the Hawks), Klay Thompson (of Golden State). Those guys are so consistent. Their shot looks the same every time.
You’ve played in several good spots. What is your all-teammate team?
That’s hard. I’ve played for six teams, man....Well I have to go Steph, Russ, KD. People are going to be getting left out. I gotta go Dirk (Nowitzki of Dallas), and Anthony Davis (of New Orleans). That’s an ill lineup right there.
Thoughts on your hometown Hornets
To see them get the Hornets name back was huge. I was a huge Hornets fan as a kid. I didn’t realize how much people in other cities and states in that time period liked the Hornets because of the colors. I was glad to see that come back. We had a great following. I’m just glad basketball is back in Charlotte.
And the Panthers, and $100 million QB Cam Newton?
I’m a huge Panthers fan. I’m a little biased but I think (Newton) deserves (the money). I don’t know who else we can get to do what does. We’ve got a shot, man. I think we’ll get to the Super Bowl within the next two or three years. The defense is young with potential and I like the young wideouts. I’m always tweeting about the Panthers and they sent me a personalized jersey, No. 2 with Morrow on the back. Steph got one, too.
Want To Go?
The Anthony Morrow Summer Hoops League at J.C. Smith is an NCAA and NBA-certified Pro-Am that has several area college and pro players scheduled to participate as well as more than 30 overseas professional players. The league, which charges no admission fee, has NCAA officials and a ladies’ division. Some players expected to participate are Morrow, Bismack Biyombo (Hornets), Ish Smith (76ers), overseas pros Mike Jenkins, Dee Bost (Concord High/Mississippi State), Curtis Withers (Charlotte), Ed Cota (UNC), Leslie McDonald (UNC), Ian Miller (United Faith/Florida State)
There are four games scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, including Morrow’s BFAM team playing Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Follow the league online