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Clippers’ Marcus Morris Sr. happy to be back

LOS ANGELES — Mook is back, and none too soon.

The Clippers — 10-8 entering Friday’s day-after-Thanksgiving matinee against the 4-14 Detroit Pistons at Staples Center — have been short-handed all season. By Spotrac’s count, they’ve had players miss a combined 80 games, third most in the NBA behind the Orlando Magic (93) and Lakers (83).

They’ve been without their star Kawhi Leonard (ACL) for the duration, but they’ve also played without several other key players, including Marcus Morris Sr., who appeared in two games and then missed the next 15 getting his left knee right.

“Just basically training, training my knee,” Morris explained Tuesday after he logged 31 minutes and had 10 points and five rebounds in his return to action.

“It wasn’t like nothing serious, same thing I was dealing with so they just gave me some time to like just train it and get it ready for a full season and I think I utilized the time really well and I feel great.”

Morris’ return serves as a timely reinforcement for a Clippers team that is expected to be without their go-to glue guy Nicolas Batum for at least 10 days and the next three games in accordance with the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“It’ll probably be a lot better when Nico gets back,” Coach Tyronn Lue said before Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks, when Morris logged 31 minutes and had 10 points and five rebounds in his return to action.

“For now, it’s kinda gonna be like the same role as Nico played, with a minute restriction and not being able to play him crazy minutes.”

After Tuesday’s game, his coach and teammates said he looked good and, more importantly, Morris said he felt that way, too.

“Felt good,” said the 32-year-old, who shot 4 for 12 and 2 for 7 from 3-point range against the Mavs. “Couple of shots didn’t go, but it’s a part of the game. I felt like I defended well — take a month off, I think I looked good myself. Shots will come, rhythm will come, I’m a veteran. Just felt great to be out there.”

Morris said he’s eager to contribute to what the Clippers — especially Paul George, who is averaging 26.4 points per game, fourth-most in the NBA, and also career-highs in field goal percentage (46.7%) and assists (5.3) — have had going early on, despite everyone who’s had to miss time.

“The team is very resilient, man,” Morris said. “Having guys being out and a lot of traveling, a lot of games back to back … it’s brutal, schedule’s been brutal. But it’s the NBA and I think guys did a great job. PG’s playing at an MVP level and Reggie (Jackson) is playing his (butt) off and guys around him are coming in and doing what they’re supposed to do, putting our best foot forward.

“Just bring my voice, bring my toughness,” he added, in reference to the Clippers’ defensive success so far — their 102.5 defensive rating is second-best in the league as they’re allowing just 102.9 points per game, fourth-fewest.

“The team is doing really well paying attention to detail and rotations and the coach is putting them in great spots and a lot of guys that have been together so it’s kind of easy to communicate with guys and guys know where to be and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”

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