- Language Tips
Beijing center Randolph Morris (right) drew criticism despite averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds in the semifinals. Cui Meng / China Daily
Ducks' center the focal point of criticism after team swept from playoff semifinals
Beijing Ducks center Randolph Morris has vowed to come back to China bigger and stronger next year.
With compatriot Stephon Marbury stealing most of the headlines, Morris is never the first man to earn praise when Beijing wins, but is frequently criticized when the team loses due to his alleged lack of impact near the hoop.
It happened again when local media attributed Beijing's sweep by the Shandong Gold Lions in the CBA semifinals to its weakness inside, and cited Morris' performance as evidence.
Despite the 21 points and 11 rebounds he averaged in the semis, Morris, the only true center on Beijing's roster, came up short against Shandong's prolific foreign tandem of Zaid Abbas and Jackson Vroman.
Outsized by the Lions, the Ducks grabbed 16 fewer rebounds per game than Shandong.
Multiple local media, including the Beijing News, reported the team is considering making a change in its front court next season, and have suggested Morris might be replaced by a bigger-name import.
The former Atlanta Hawk is determined to improve himself and stay with the team.
"I want to come back with the team and be in the best form of my life," Morris told China Daily before leaving for the US on Monday.
"(I will) work as hard as I can in the offseason. I won't take it as a vacation or a time to rest. You can still work out and make your body recover (in the offseason). I will come back stronger, faster and a better player."
The 2.11-meter Houston native said he will hire a personal trainer to work on his strength, post-up skills and perimeter shooting in the offseason while also trying to expand his attacking repertoire.
The Ducks' head coach, Min Lulei, admitted Beijing's post position was a weakness, but indicated Morris would not be easily replaced.
"We will still believe in him despite his inconsistency sometimes," Min said on Monday. "He remains our No 1 choice for the second import spot next season."
According to Min, the team will scout some domestic big men including Shanghai's national-team center, Zhang Zhaoxu, to increase its height up front, but won't make any drastic changes to its current roster.
Morris' one-year contract with the Ducks expired after Beijing's elimination from the playoffs.
He will talk with team management about a contract extension after Beijing's National Games campaign, said his Chinese agent, Zhao Gang.
"It's a huge blow for him not being able to help the team defend its title and that will motivate him to be even better," Zhao told the Beijing Times on Tuesday.
"He has been playing here for three seasons. He is familiar with the city and he feels comfortable living here. He definitely hopes to stay."
Joining the Ducks in 2010, Morris has built solid connections with his Chinese teammates and the nation's culture.
Boasting smart finishing ability around the rim and a smooth mid-range jumper, Morris played a pivotal role in Beijing's title run last postseason, helping the Ducks nullify teams with strong inside players like the Zhejiang Lions and Guangdong Southern Tigers.
However, unlike Marbury's high-profile approach to blending in with the Chinese culture, Morris prefers to keep his life in China private. He did dress up in a traditional outfit while pretending to play Chinese chess with Marbury in the Ducks' preseason promotional video.
The 27-year-old said Beijing has provided a comfort zone for him away from his home in the US.
"Yes, I love Beijing, and l love China," Morris said. "I like the city's atmosphere. Beijing is a mixture of the traditional and modern. Even though we didn't win the championship (this year), the fans still showed great support.
"The Beijing fans are the best and that's what so enticing here. If the team offers me new contracts, I would like to play here until I retire."
(China Daily 03/21/2013 page23)