While Stephon Marbury usually commands all the attention, Beijing has a pretty good second foreigner on its basketball team in Randolph Morris. Last year the 6’11” power forward/center averaged 23.8 points and 7.1 rebounds over the season, and hit the go-ahead free throws with 21.9 seconds left in the championship-clinching Game 5 vs. Guangdong in March. The team re-signed him in the off-season, and yesterday evening, Morris arrived back in town.
While he didn’t get the greeting party that Stephen Marbury is sure to, Morris seemed genuinely happy to be back. In fact, ”I’m the happiest guy on the planet right now,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for six long months and I’m just happy that Beijing wanted me to come back, I’m happy that the city is receptive, and I’m happy that I have a home here.”
He said his offseason training has made him even better.
“My summer’s basically all I did was just work out the whole time, just try to get better and better,” he said. “It was just dedicated to being better than last year at basketball. That’s all I thought about all summer, was trying to get another championship.”
Morris will need to be better, since Marbury turns 36 in February and is coming off ankle surgery. For his sake and its own, the team can’t rely on him so much this season.
The Ducks snuck up on everyone last year, winning their first 13 games before hitting a lull mid-season that saw them lose eight of nine. Then they regrouped to take second place in the league, snuck by Shanxi in the maximum five games before beating the Guangdong Southern Tigers 4 games to 1 in their best-of-seven CBA finals.
Needless to say, the Ducks will sneak up on absolutely no one this year, especially after acquiring Li Gen from Qingdao, the CBA’s leading Chinese scorer last season. In fact, everyone is reloading. Shanxi has brought back both of its imports, Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines (the best one-two foreign punch in the league). Four-time runner-up Xinjiang has regrouped with ex-NBA’er Von Wafer. And the Guangdong Southern Tigers, looking to reclaim the crown, inked Yi Jianlian, who will, undoubtedly, be the best Chinese player in the league — and just possibly the best player, period.
About Yi’s signing, Morris doesn’t seem troubled. ”I think it’s good news for everybody. The better the players are, the better the competition is, the better it is for the fans. I’m happy that he’s back.”
Spoken like a champ. Soon we’ll see if he and the rest of the Ducks have gotten better, too. The season begins next month, and we can’t wait.