Darius Morris wants to 'maximize opportunity'
The circumstances are not how rookie guard Darius Morris hoped he would crack the Lakers' rotation.
But for someone whose court time mostly involves practice, morning shoot-arounds and pregame warmups, he'll take it. Lakers reserve guard Steve Blake will remain sidelined for Friday's game against the Cavaliers at Staples Center because of fractured cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum. It's also likely he'll miss Saturday's game against the Clippers. That absence elevates Morris as the Lakers' primary backup point guard behind veteran starter Derek Fisher.
"You hate to see an injury go down," Morris said outside the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo after the morning shoot-around. "Unfortunately, Blake is injured. I'm just looking forward to maximizing my opportunity."
Morris already received a taste of that in the Lakers' 90-87 overtime victory Wednesday over the Utah Jazz. He finished with four points on two-of-two shooting, two assists, two turnovers, two fouls and a rebound in 13 minutes. Although his first regular-season appearance in 12 games coincided with Blake's injury, Morris connected with Metta World Peace for a dunk only 14 seconds after checking in.
"The young fella did a nice job," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "That's a hostile environment with the crowd and all that. It was an intense game. I thought he kept his composure and tried to do what we asked of him. He gave us a little bit of a spark."
It still remains to be seen what spark, if any, Morris will provide against the Cavaliers or if he will match up with rookie guard Kyrie Irving.
Brown kept Morris on the bench before the Utah game for two reasons. The position remains log-jammed with Blake and Fisher. Brown also sees a bigger need in playing rookie guard Andrew Goudelock because the Lakers lack a definitive backup shooting guard to Kobe Bryant. Brown said he plans to play Fisher around 26-28 minutes and Morris around 20-22 minutes, but stressed that both players' performances will largely dictate playing time.
Morris pledges he's prepared for this moment.
Though he lacked any playing time before the Utah game, Morris described himself as the "first one to arrive and last one to leave" practices. During practices open to the media, he often remained on the court working on ball-handling and shooting drills. Morris and Goudelock consistently arrive at Staples Center before games at 4:30 to work on the same drills. Morris said he's also intently watched games on the sideline, studying unspecified tendencies from Fisher, Derrick Rose and Steve Nash.
"If I get extra minutes, I can get time to settle in," Morris said. "Last night, I didn't know how long I'd be out there for. Even tonight, I really don't know. But I'm just hoping to provide a spark off the bench."
But don't expect Morris to get too giddy. Even though his appearance tonight will mark his first at Staples Center, the former L.A. Windward High product hardly feels concerned about doling out tickets. He plans to keep his usual routine in handing out four tickets to his dad, mom, brother and a select friend. Still, Morris surely recognizes the opportunity, even if it comes under unfortunate circumstances.
"I can't even lie," Morris said. "To be playing back in L.A., other than the preseason, it will be nice to actually play in Staples Center officially."
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