Suns trade Morrison to Bullets Former Loyola star dealt for draft pick

September 29, 1990|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER -- The Washington Bullets could have more of a local flavor this season after yesterday's acquisition of shooting guard Mike Morrison, a graduate of Loyola College and a native of Washington.

Morrison, 23, who saw scant service as a rookie with the Phoenix Suns last season, was signed to a conditional one-year contract. If he makes the Bullets' regular-season roster, the Suns will receive a second-round pick in the 1993 National Basketball Association draft.

"This trade is a real blessing for me. Coming home is a plus for me," said Morrison, who was notified of the trade by Phoenix coach Cotton Fitzsimmons just before a Suns practice session yesterday morning.

"I know the trade is conditional, but I just have to come in and earn a spot. It's no easier than it was for me with the Suns last year. But wearing a Washington uniform will really help me mentally."

Morrison, who finished his college career as Loyola's third all-time scorer with 1,697 points, will not wait until the veterans report to Mount St. Mary's Friday, but will join the Bullets' free agents and rookies in camp Tuesday morning.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound guard grew up in Washington as an avid Bullets fan, with Wes Unseld and Dave Bing as his favorite role models.

Morrison is no stranger to Unseld, now the Bullets' head coach. He attended several of his summer camps while a student at Northwest High in Hyattsville.

He first caught the eye of Bullets general manager John Nash in the Professional Summer League in Los Angeles in 1989.

"Morrison played outstanding basketball, and I thought he was one of the top prospects in the league," Nash said. "He is an explosive scorer."

Nash, seeking backcourt help, also received favorable reports on Morrison, who participated this summer in pro leagues in both Utah and Los Angeles.

"Mike was just a victim of the numbers game in Phoenix," Nash said. "The Suns already had Kevin Johnson, Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle in the backcourt, and added an outstanding point guard in [rookie] Negele Knight. They can also use Kenny Battle and Ricky Blanton as 'two' [shooting] guards, so that left little room for Morrison."

Morrison's odds are far better with Washington. Scoring leader Jeff Malone was traded to Utah, and Ledell Eackles, his likely successor at shooting guard, is embroiled in a contract hassle. Wednesday, his agent, Ed Sapir, who is seeking a four-year deal worth $8 million, said Eackles would not report to camp unsigned.

"We don't have a proven 'two' guard coming to camp," said Nash, "so Morrison will get every opportunity to make the team."

A.J. English, the Bullets' first draft choice, is guaranteed a rost spot, but Morrison could challenge veteran guard Steve Colter.

Hindered by a hand injury before the start of his rookie season, Morrison was not activated until Dec. 6. As a fifth guard in the Suns' rotation, he played only 153 minutes in 36 games, averaging two points.

But Morrison had only praise for the Suns' organization.

"I have to commend the Suns for giving me a chance to play and letting me know that I can compete in the league," he said. "They treated me with constant respect."

Said Fitzsimmons: "Mike Morrison is a hard-working young man who we know has the ability to play in the NBA. But we have an overload at guard and were forced to make a move. We feel he'll have an excellent opportunity to continue his pro career in Washington."

NOTES: Although veteran forward John Williams, recovering from extensive knee surgery last December, recently resumed his therapy at the Kerlan-Jobe clinic in Los Angeles, Nash said Williams' bi-weekly pay will continue to be withheld until his physical status is checked Tuesday by the Bullets team doctors. . . The free-agent/rookie roster dropped to 11 following the withdrawal of guard Lanard Copeland, who will try out for the Atlanta Hawks.

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