After returning from sports hernia surgery over the summer, Markieff Morris said he didn’t feel like “his young self” when he returned to the starting lineup at the start of the month against the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Not where I want to be at. It’s a little frustrating when you’re so used to being a certain way,” he said. “We just got to work back toward it, but it’s one day at a time. I’m just trying to get in great shape. I’m trying to get my body moving back normal.
Based on his last two showings, he’s getting there. In Thursday’s 111-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Morris put together his best game of the season, knocking down 6-of-7 shots from the field in only 17 minutes of action.
“Morris shot the ball well. He was patient offensively,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “He scored well, but he’s still getting some rhythm with how we play [...] It’s good to see him somewhat back to somewhat of his old self. It’s only going to get better from here.”
He still isn’t exploding to the rim like he used to, but with his shooting stroke going on Thursday, a quick first step wasn’t needed. He made four of his six shots from outside the paint, including back-to-back three-pointers to start to start the third quarter.
“I was stiff as hell when I hit those threes, man,” Morris said. “I guess I prayed on it.”
His hot shooting carried over in a dominant win against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. He scored 18 points on 10 shots in just 20 minutes of action. “He's a critical part of our team,” Brooks emphasized after the game. “He did so many things well for us last year and I thought we did a pretty good job of playing without him early on but it's nice to have him back. It's nice to get him back in some rhythm. The last couple of games have been really good. Hopefully, that continues to improve with his minutes going up.”
His numbers on the offensive end speak for themselves, but Bradley Beal was also happy with what he’s brought defensively. “It was great because he is able to switch on the defensive end and guard guards, and it makes it easier on us and us guards have to box out, but his versatility is everything we need and his size is just perfect and on the offensive end he is getting his flow back,” Beal said. “In the first couple of games he was getting his wind back and he is a lot more comfortable. We are going to continue to assert him in the game and he is always going to be aggressive as we need him to be. Keef is definitely a valuable piece.”
While it’s nice to watch him put together strong back-to-back performances, Morris knows it will take more than just beating teams like Los Angeles and Atlanta to be taken seriously. "Not to take credit away from the Lakers and the Hawks, but they're not the best offensive teams. Once we get to those good teams, then we'll be able to measure what we have," Morris said.