Lakers’ D’Antoni Developing Morris Now
Recently Lakers’ Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has moved Metta World Peace to reserve power forward and has experimented with second-year point guard Darius Morris as the Lakers’ starting shooting guard.
“He did well. He set the tone, especially with his defense,” said D’Antoni of Morris after the Lakers’ 104-87 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. “He’s very athletic. We need athleticism, he’s probably the most athletic guy on the team (without going crazy, Dwight [Howard] is there) but he gets up and down and his energy just helps everybody and we have to have that.”
Morris was charged with guarding Damian Lillard, Portland’s high-scoring point guard and probable Rookie of the Year. Lillard scored only 11 points on four-of-17 shooting in 37-1/2 minutes, dishing four assists with three turnovers.
The Lakers drafted Morris as the 41st pick in the 2011 NBA draft. The 6-4 point guard from Michigan by way of Windward High in L.A. didn’t play much as a rookie but circumstances brought him to the forefront in his second year. Injuries to both Steve Nash (leg) and Steve Blake (abdominal surgery) gave Morris major minutes, often starting at point guard. The results were mixed as Morris tried to learn on the fly. Since the shift to playing mostly shooting-guard, the Lakers, with the help of Morris’ energy and defense, have railed off six-straight wins.
“I’m really blessed to have a coach that even would do that on a big stage like, to have confidence in me,” said Morris. “That just gives me the strength to thinking I can go out there and get it done, no matter how big the giant is you just need to go up and face the challenge. It’s all about your heart at that point.”