Darius Morris making the most of his time

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
7:21
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Darius Morris couldn't crack a rotation last season that featured the likes of Derek Fisher, Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake and Andrew Goudelock playing ahead of him.

Did he figure he had a chance to get much burn for the Los Angeles Lakers this season with Hall of Fame-bound Steve Nash starting at point guard and Chris Duhon, an established veteran, as well as Darius Johnson-Odom, a rookie the Lakers paid $500,000 to Dallas just to acquire his rights, being added to the mix?

"Somebody asked me like, 'Ah, the depth chart is looking really thick,'" Morris recalled the other day. "I just put my faith in God and I just work hard. That's one thing I never stop doing and things happen for a reason, so you just have to always remain positive. But for me to say, 'Oh, I could call this?' No, not at all."

In 19 games last season, Morris totaled 46 points. Through eight games this season, including three starts, Morris already has 51 points.

With Nash (fractured left fibula) and Blake (strained abdomen) sidelined indefinitely, Morris has become the surprise starting point guard to kick off the Mike D'Antoni coaching era in L.A.

After never scoring more than nine points in a game as a rookie and handing out more than four assists only once, Morris has reached double-digit scoring in two of the past five games (including a career-high 12 points against the Houston Rockets on Sunday) and has dished out five or more assists three times in that same span.

"With the fact that Nash has been out, the kid's had an opportunity to play and you do not get experience through osmosis," Lakers interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "So, he's had an opportunity to play and I think it's terrific for him and his confidence."

Also contributing to that confidence is the trust of everyone surrounding him in the purple and gold.

"I just thank my teammates for giving me that confidence," Morris said. "Thank God, most importantly, but also my coaching staff as well, just telling me to go out there and play. Really just trying to simplify it for me. Steve Nash has been giving me some great advice as well, so people around me are really helping me."

Morris said Nash has been his professor of the pick-and-roll.

"Just how to simplify the game," Morris said. "How to get to the elbows, make reads. If a big man steps up, telling me things to look for, what type of reads, look at the wings. Especially in the pick-and-roll. He's really been helping me in the pick-and-roll and he's probably one of the best to ever play the pick-and-roll, so I'm really fortunate to have him here."

There's an element of the old John Wooden maxim, "be quick, but don't hurry," that Nash and D'Antoni are trying to impart to the 21-year-old Morris.

Said D'Antoni, the coach known for speeding things up: "We got to keep slowing him down."

There is still room for improvement for Morris, of course. He was 0-for-5 from the field in his first start -- a two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs. But he has done a more-than-capable job of filling in when his team needed him -- consider his meager total of just four turnovers in his three starts -- and has done enough to give D'Antoni something to think about when he sets his rotation when the entire roster is healthy.

"[D'Antoni] said he can still use me, when both Steves come back, off the ball and also playing point guard as well," Morris said. "So, I guess in his offense there's room for all of us on the court, so that was good to hear. But I got to keep getting better every day."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5