Coming into the 2012-2013 season, it was well known Darius Morris would have to develop as player to earn minutes on this Laker roster. After a disappointing rookie campaign playing in only 19 games, it was clear that he would need to make some serious changes to his game if he were to blossom as a talent in the league.
So in the off-season he spent extra time in the gym working on developing muscle to improve his frame and also working on the mechanics of his jump shot to help improve his biggest weakness as a player. His efforts to improve his game led to more confidence – evident in how he carried himself on the floor — that he was ready to be a contributor on the Lakers roster. And with Mike Brown opening up competition at the back-up point-guard spot during training camp, his chance to solidify himself in the rotation was available.
Despite Morris’ growing confidence in his game, early indications from the preseason showed that he lacked the skills to be consistently effective. He struggled with initiating the offense, looked out of control at times, and the work he’d put in to improve his shooting was not being shown in games. A disappointing performance in the preseason left Morris where he was at the start of camp, slated as the third point-guard in the depth chart behind Steve Nash and Steve Blake.
Lots of questions from fans emerged regarding Darius Morris, and his place with this roster. Is he a true point-guard? Could he ever develop as a shooter? If not, then by next season he would wind up with his former teammate Andrew Goudelock in the D-League?
Then, seven games into the season, three significant events occurred that very well might change the landscape of Morris’ sophomore season. Head Coach Mike Brown was relieved of his duties, and both point-guards ahead of him in the rotation (Steve Nash and Steve Blake) suffered injuries that would force them to miss some time. A blessing in disguise, these events gave Morris his opportunity to prove his value to this Laker team.
With the transitioning from the Princeton Offense to Mike D’Antoni’s system along with Interim Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff giving Morris the nod to start over Chris Duhon, Morris is now proving his worth to the Lakers and many of the questions we had are being answered. Morris is a true point-guard, he does have what it takes to run an offense, he actually can knock down shots and be consistent on the defensive end. Through eight games Morris is averaging: 6.4 points, 2.9 assists and shooting around 44% from the 3-point line. Not stellar numbers, but indicating that he has grown up and matured as a player.
Morris has earned not only the respect of his teammates, but the coaching staff. Bickerstaff has continued to stress after every game that Morris can’t develop watching guys play, and that this experience is pivotal for his growth as a player. And while Bickerstaff has said that Morris has too much sugar in his game, he also seems to acknowledge the kid is heading in the right direction.
The Lakers staff is now faced with the issue of whether or not to continue to let Morris grow, or place him back at the end of the rotation once Steve Nash and Steve Blake return. New Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has indicated that he likes Darius Morris – especially on the defensive end — and is still planning to find minutes for him even once the roster is back at full strength. The big question is: how?
The x-factor in this is Morris’ shooting. If he can continue to shoot at the level he has been so far this season, then we could potentially see D’Antoni play the combination of Blake and Morris in the backcourt, since new Laker acquisition Jodie Meeks has gotten off to a poor start this season. A tough predicament that the staff will be placed in to say the least, but one I’m sure they are happy to have.