WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Wizards power forward Markieff Morris had a busy month.
“I’m in a great position. I just had a beautiful young daughter. I just had successful surgery, and of course we beat the case,” Morris said Thursday in his return to the team for the first time since his wild ride began.
The most recent milestone occurred Tuesday, when a Phoenix jury acquitted Markieff and his twin brother, Boston Celtics forward Marcus, after a two-week trial on aggravated assault charges. The Morris brothers were accused of being part of a group that beat a former friend in January 2015 outside a high school basketball game.
“Our lawyers did a great job the entire case,” Morris said. “We were positive the entire time, confident that we were going to win. Just happy it’s behind us and not a distraction anymore.”
Inside the Wizards locker room on Thursday, head coach Scott Brooks saw nothing but warmth as teammates embraced their big man.
“You could tell our guys have a lot of respect for him,” Brooks said. “Everybody was happy and excited, and it was very authentic.”
Morris helped the 49-win Wizards come within one game of reaching the Eastern Conference finals. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds over 76 games last season.
He won’t play that much this campaign. Morris had sports hernia surgery on Sept. 22, two weeks after the birth of his daughter. The team announced recovery would take 6-8 weeks, which could mean missing the first month of the season. Morris, 28, revealed Thursday that surgery was needed to help strengthen his abdominal wall.
Rejoining his teammates in Washington provided another type of support.
“It was super important. This is my first time ever missing a training camp,” the six-year veteran said. “We’ve got a special group.”
Morris’ trash-talk skills are already in mid-season form.
The Wizards lost a contentious seven-game playoff series to the Celtics last season. Morris injured his ankle in Game 1 when he landed on Al Horford’s foot as the Boston center moved close defensively. The Celtics roster changed dramatically over the summer — including the acquisition of Marcus Morris — but Horford remains.
“Yeah, I’m still going to kick his (butt),” Morris said. “We still kind of have that rivalry going on.”
NBA NOTES: Joel Embiid was cleared for 5-on-5 drills and participated in a full practice with the Philadelphia 76ers for the first time Thursday.
Embiid sat out Philadelphia’s preseason opener on Wednesday and won’t play against Boston on Friday. The Sixers are hopeful Embiid will be in the lineup on opening night.
It was Embiid’s first full practice since having surgery March 24 for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 27.
Embiid’s career has been riddled with injuries dating to his college days at Kansas and all three seasons with the Sixers. Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, missed his first two NBA seasons with injuries and played only 31 games last season. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.
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Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum will miss a minimum of six to eight weeks with a left elbow injury.
The team announced that an MRI on Thursday revealed the nine-year NBA veteran tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his non-dominant arm in the first quarter of Charlotte’s preseason road contest against the Pistons on Wednesday.
The Hornets have not decided if Batum will need surgery or will attempt to rehab the injury.
Batum, who signed a five-year, $120 million contract in 2016, was expected to start for Charlotte. Batum’s injury means Jeremy Lamb could be thrust into a starting role to open the regular season.
Batum last year became the first Charlotte player to score more than 1,000 points, grab 450 rebounds and hand out over 450 assists in a season.