While the basketball world is in shock following the Lakers' 2nd Round defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, which ends L.A.'s shot at a third consecutive NBA title, Kobe Bryant says he knows why the 2010-2011 Lakers fell short.
"We need Adam Morrison," said Bryant. "We won two championship with Adam. Now we lost and he's not on the team. You don't have to be a basketball genius to explain it. He was our key to success."
Morrison, the 3rd overall pick of the 2006 Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats, played 8 games for the Lakers in 2009 and 31 in 2010, scoring a total of 84 points. He played 13 total minutes in the postseason. He was not re-signed by the Lakers before this season and is out of basketball.
Yet Bryant's Lakers teammates agree that Morrison's absence doomed them — not for his basketball talents, or lack thereof, but for the intangibles he provided.
"He was so terrible at basketball that he really kept the locker room light," said Lamar Odom. "When he got into the game, he provided enough material to keep us laughing for weeks. That's invaluable for a team that plays under the kind of pressure we do."
Head coach Phil Jackson says he valued Morrison's presence on the team for motivational purposes.
"If we weren't playing well, I'd call a timeout, gather the team around and say: 'Look at Adam over there! What a pathetic pile of crap he is!'" said Jackson. "'Do you want to end up like him? A nobody? A bust? An NBA punchline? I didn't think so! Now get back out there and stop being a bunch of Morrisons!' That worked every time."
Most of those times, Morrison would then start crying — giving his teammates something to laugh about even with important games on the line.
"Everyone saw how much we missed Adam in our final game," said Jackson of L.A.'s 122-86 elimination loss to Dallas. "Our guys were so desperate to have Adam back that they all decided to play like him in hopes of turning the series around."
While Jackson is believed to be leaning heavily leaning towards retirement, he made it clear that there is one thing that could bring him back.
"Sign Adam Morrison to a long-term deal and I'm here," said Jackson. "Fishing in Montana is great, but it's nothing like getting to laugh at that hilariously awful bastard every day in practice. It was my one true joy in life."