Monte Morris talks future with Detroit Pistons

FLINT, MI — From his early days shooting hoops at the Boys & Girls Club, Monte Morris had dreams of rocking the Detroit Pistons jersey in the NBA.

Now, that dream is on the verge of becoming a reality as the 2023-24 NBA season approaches, with the Pistons formally acquiring Morris from the Washington Wizards at the start of NBA free agency, in a move to bolster their second unit.

A seasoned veteran of the league, Morris is expected to bring a wealth of experience and skill to the Pistons’ young backcourt, which complements the likes of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Killian Hayes and Marcus Sasser.

In one of his first public appearances since joining the Pistons, Morris took a trip to his hometown of Flint on Saturday to unveil the newly renovated Durant Park. The park’s transformation was spearheaded by the FlintNOW Foundation, which was created by Pistons owner Tom Gores, who, like Morris, is from Flint.

Related: New basketball courts at Durant Park unveiled by FlintNOW Foundation

Central to the park’s design is a striking mural created by Flint native Jamiersen Green. The artwork features two arms wrapped around a heart-shaped basketball, with each corner adorned with a meaningful word: Restore, Joy, Peace, Power.

Shortly after his arrival at Durant Park, Morris discusses the moment he found out he was coming home to play for the team he grew up watching.

“So when I got the call that I was traded, I actually landed in DC to check on my house there,” Morris said. “And my agent said, ‘Are you going home?’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ and he said, ‘Oh, you got traded to the Pistons,’ so it was a surreal moment. But you know, it’s the reality, and I’m, I’m excited.”

From the moment the news broke, Morris didn’t hold back his excitement when he first learned he was headed to Detroit as he immediately changed all of his social media bios to reflect that he was now a Detroit Piston.

Morris showed similar excitement when describing his first impressions of his new Pistons teammates and how he will fit into the roster.

“Young, (and) athletic guy. They want to learn. They want to win,” Morris said. And you know, I talk to Monty (Williams) and Troy (Weaver), we don’t want this to be a pit stop for me. We actually want to get after it and try to win games. We’re not trying to say we’re rebuilding, you know, that’s why we’ve shaped the roster that we have.

“Cade (Cunningham) looks great. He looks really good, moves well and you have the young guys with (Jaden) Ivey and JD (Jalen Duren). So I come in is just to be the vet present. I can shoot the ball. I don’t have to be on the ball all the time, so I want to be able to play off the ball with Cade as well. Kind of like the Jamal Murray way when me and him were in the backcourt together. So no matter what situation, you know, they want me to play. I’ve seen it all. I’ve played third, fourth option, second option, all that. I’m just a jumper.”

Since arriving in Detroit, Morris has demonstrated his commitment to making the upcoming season a huge success for the Pistons.

A clear example of his dedication was when he spent time at the Pistons’ practice facility while the franchise was preparing for the Las Vegas Summer League. During this time, Morris had the opportunity to observe Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser, both of whom the Pistons had selected with the No. 5 and No. 25 picks, respectively, in this year’s NBA draft.

When asked about his thoughts on Thompson, Morris wasn’t shy about heaping praise on the 6-foot-7 wing, declaring that “he’s about time.”

“That kid is going to be special,” Morris said. “That’s all I can really say. He’s listening. Like, if you get to this level and you’ve been successful for so long, you’re going to hit bumps in the road. You know, my goal is just to let him know like, ‘You’re special. You just need to know that you make mistakes and you’re young.’ But when guys listen, that’s the biggest quality I could take from young guys. Because if you don’t listen and it gets tough. But he’s all eyes and all ears. He listens well.”

Morris, 28, averaged 10.3 points and 5.3 assists in 61 games for the Wizards last season. He could become a reliable three-point threat for Detroit’s backcourt, shooting a career 39% from beyond the arc and staying above 38% in five seasons.

At times, players like Morris can see playing in front of their hometown as an added responsibility or pressure to live up to expectations. But Michigan’s former Mr. Basketball (2013) is up for the challenge.

“I love pressure and I love hometown racing,” Morris said. “I can’t wait to be in Little Caesars Arena and hit big shots and I see all these people supporting me since I was 16, 17. So I love pressure. I thrive under pressure, but that’s why I feel like I like to go out there and do what I have to do.

“For me, it’s also a contract year, so that’s all it’s locked in. I’ve got bigger plans to make. I’m loving my life right now, so I can’t let it slide.”

The Denver Nuggets selected Morris with the 51st overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

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