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Former Piston Marcus Morris talks mental health and race in NBA

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Morris says he used marijuana to cope with anxiety while with the Pistons.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Mental health in the NBA has been a big topic of discussion since the second half of last season, and it’s brought out some tremendous perspectives. The latest came from Marcus Morris via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.

Morris goes into great depths of his extremely difficult childhood, how that has impacted his career, and his journey toward a mentally healthier lifestyle. Take the time to read it.

The trade to the Pistons popped up in the angle of the betrayal from the Phoenix Suns after Marcus had signed a bargain contract so that he could play in Phoenix with his twin brother Markieff. The incident solidified some issues that Marcus already had with trust and created some serious mental health challenges.

For most of his young life, basketball had been his sanctuary. But at that point, Morris says, it felt like the source of all his angst.

”I start asking myself, ‘Is this for me?’” Morris says. “Growing up, I loved the game so much -- it was the only thing that made me happy. But now it’s stressing me out. It’s all negative. It’s all business, and I’m having trouble with that. So you start flipping back and forth. The money is great, but is it good for me as a human? Shouldn’t that matter more than anything?”

Morris couldn’t sleep because his mind was racing all the time. The Pistons tried to make him feel welcome, but he wasn’t very responsive. He was often up all night replaying a missed shot or a mistake on the floor, and his play was suffering. He seriously considered quitting, but what would he do? Go back to Philly? That notion led to more anxiety, more stress. He tried sleeping pills. He smoked marijuana. Nothing granted him peace.

He said the experience left him unwilling to trust enough to have relationships with teammates or the front office when he arrived in Detroit. But from the outside looking in, Morris seemed to have a leadership position with the team.

Human beings are complicated. This movement to increasingly humanize players is so valuable.

The good news is that the Celtics have valued mental health and helped connect Morris with mental health experts. That’s brought him to a much better place.

He cannot speak for his brother Markieff, he says, but seeing a mental health therapist has made Marcus a calmer, happier, more productive member of the NBA family. He knows the gang members hanging on the stoop near Erie Avenue would scoff at him, deride him for being “soft,” but he no longer cares.

But it’s unfortunate that it took Morris getting out of Detroit for him to get the support that he needed. Hopefully part of all of the organizational changes going on with the franchise has included an assessment to ensure that the resources are in place for each player to live a healthy lifestyle, including the psychological and emotional side of things.

The series from ESPN is in the second part of a five part series about mental health in the league. The first featured Kevin Love and Paul Pierce and was also very well done. The next will be released on Wednesday.