LAS VEGAS — Reading the reviews might have been the first mistake for the Lakers' Adam Morrison.
"I had a lot of criticism after my first year," Morrison said of his rookie season with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006-07, having been the third overall pick in the NBA draft.
"I remember one website saying I was the worst player in the NBA. All that stuff."
The 6-foot-8 forward is trying to find himself in Las Vegas -- along with his shot -- in the friendlier, light-on-defense confines of the NBA Summer League, at the wise suggestion of Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Keeping it in perspective because, after all, this is summer league, not the heart of the NBA season, things are going well. He has averaged 20.8 points in four games. He scored 20 points against the Clippers on Monday, and had 17 points the next night against Oklahoma City.
"He's a shot maker . . . and it looks to me like he's playing with confidence," Kupchak said during Monday's game.
Said Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy: "I think he's made a good recovery from his knee injury. He has the ability to score. He's the main focal point of their [summer] team, but I still think he's doing a lot of good things that show separation. Potentially, he can create himself a role with the Lakers."
Morrison was less pleased with his performance after the Thunder game but opened up to reporters about his struggles since his Gonzaga days, when he was the go-to guy and Wooden Award finalist.
He stood in the hallway outside the locker room at Thomas & Mack Center and answered questions about his confidence (improved) and his knee (better) and helpfully repeated his answers if a newcomer joined the scrum.
Morrison realizes there is much on the line, starting in Las Vegas. He will turn 25 on Sunday, but this represents a career juncture for him.
"Yeah, it's my contract year," he said. "If I don't perform well, I might not be in the league. It's definitely a big year."
In Charlotte, it got worse for Morrison before it would get any better. He suffered a torn ligament in his left knee in an exhibition game against the Lakers in October 2007 that required surgery.
"It was terrible," he said.
Not only because of the pain and career-threatening nature of the injury, but Morrison felt a chance to correct the pro record had been wrested away, pulled out of his control.
He was jokingly asked whether the critical website in question had asked him for an interview after he was traded to the Lakers in February along with Shannon Brown for Vladimir Radmanovic.
"Not really," he said. "A lot of people thought I was terrible and done for good and one of the worst picks of all time," he said. "I heard all of that. It was tough to swallow.
"Like I said, to come back and get hurt and not get the chance to prove myself was probably the worst."
He praised the Lakers for giving him this opportunity, saying he felt his confidence soaring even in practice, and even though he was on the bench in their run to the title.
The message? Well, his career is not six feet under.
"A lot of people left me for dead," Morrison said. "A lot of people said I couldn't play. And [the Lakers] gave me a chance to get healthy, and I'll get a chance hopefully to prove I can play."