By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Adam Morrison couldn’t take it anymore.
Heckled all night as he sat on the bench in street clothes in Miami, nursing a sore knee, the Charlotte Bobcats rookie turned to a fan behind the bench _ the one who kept calling him “white trash” _ and made an obscene gesture.
That moment in a meaningless late-season game was the boiling point in a disappointing year. Weighed down by the pressure of being the No. 3 pick in the draft and a role model for youngsters with diabetes, Morrison struggled. He averaged 11.8 points but shot only 38 percent, playing with a body not quite ready for the rigors of an 82-game schedule.
“It was a little difficult at times not being able to perform like I wanted to and kind of hearing the whispers and whatnot,” Morrison said Monday. “But that comes with being a high draft pick. I’m just looking forward to this year and getting a new start, turning over a new leaf.”
Starting over was something Morrison kept bringing up during a telephone interview from Washington, where he is scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday to urge for more federal funding for diabetes research. Morrison acknowledged he couldn’t wait for last season to end.
“Just to clear my head and get back to basics,” Morrison said.
Morrison made the NBA’s all-rookie second team, but his numbers _ and patience _ declined late in the season. Morrison had nine games of 22 or more points in the first two months of the season, but only two in the final 3 ½ months. He was moody and avoided reporters.
Never known as a good defender, the former Gonzaga star _ who led the nation in scoring in 2005-06 _ saw his playing time diminish. There were whispers that his Type 1 diabetes was wearing him down.
“I was fatigued, but I don’t want to say it was because of diabetes,” said Morrison, who shot 34 percent from 3-point range. “Every rookie kind of goes through that. You play 30-something games throughout your whole college career and 20-something in high school, then you jump to 82. So for me, I think it was just my body not being used to it.”
Then-coach Bernie Bickerstaff wasn’t concerned with Morrison’s diabetes, but rather his strength. Morrison was sent home to Spokane, Wash. with a conditioning and strength program to follow. Morrison hired a strength coach and has been working out with him four days a week.
“We need him to come back and really kind of establish himself at the beginning of the season,” new coach Sam Vincent said late last week. “We’re hoping that he’s really going to take it serious and come really focused to give us what we need this year.”
Vincent said that either he or an assistant coach would fly to Spokane this summer to check on Morrison. But Morrison saved the Bobcats on airfare when he agreed to take part in the team’s rookie camp and play on the Bobcats’ summer league team.
When that’s over on July 13, Morrison plans to stay in Charlotte _ where he recently bought a home _ for the rest of the summer.
“It will be good for me to learn his system and his style of coaching and how they want to move the organization forward,” Morrison said of Vincent. “He seems like a really nice guy. He seems really motivated.”
The shaggy-haired Morrison, fined $25,000 for the incident in Miami, knows he’ll be the subject of taunts throughout his career. He just hopes he can quiet the visiting crowds with his game _ like he did in college.
“I’m disappointed in how I performed, shooting percentage-wise,” Morrison said. “I had some good games, a good start to the season. If I could just get my percentage up a little bit, the points will go up.
“I want to make sure I’m ready to go for next season. I look at it as a new beginning I guess.”