For any NBA rookie, the inaugural season is a learning experience, but for Darius Morris, this was truly the case. Without the benefit of much playing time (just 169 total minutes over 19 games), the L.A. native wasn't left with much to do beyond gain an education. Thus, he made the most of a campaign spent primarily on the inactive roster, as he explained Wednesday in El Segundo.
Morris learned while observing opposing point guards from the bench, paying close attention to the "little tricks" in the back pockets of folks like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker. He learned from Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, the former with whom he forged an additionally strong friendship and the latter a self-appointed mentor. He learned what it took to win a lot of games at the NBA level.
But perhaps most importantly, he learned how to "stay ready," a refrain constantly repeated by players out of the rotation.
"As young players, we kind of embraced that, because you see how quickly things can happen, explained Morris. "I wasn't even dressing and active, and then Steve Blake goes down, I'm thrown into the fire. That right there. Everyone has their little moments. Or Dev (Ebanks), not being in the rotation and Kobe goes out. You would never expect it... It's just something you've got to do. This is your career. You are getting paid to stay ready and not have any excuses."
For his willingness to accept that and other challenges, Mike Brown praised the rookie during his exit interview for growth the coach witnessed between December and April.
"Although it wasn't the season I wanted to have personally, it definitely made me stronger mentally in terms of my character," explained Morris. "Just to be able to go through adversity and in terms of how to handle it and where to fuel it to, that disappointment. You just go harder on the court and I think it's definitely gonna help me in the offseason, just to turn a lot of heads next season, even in Summer League."
The goal is obviously to apply these lessons to actual PT, and Darius is eager to start receiving more burn. He was given the indication minutes next season were potentially feasible, especially since Steve Blake can play off-ball. However, the potential free agent also sounded like someone looking to hedge his bets. Morris talked about Summer League as an opportunity to showcase his skills for teams beyond just the Lakers. As much this environment provided a fantastic entry into the NBA, nostalgia and aesthetics only carry so much weight. Morris is anxious to start laying the foundation of a legitimate career.
"I love it here in L.A.," smiled Morris, "But being a young player, it's really important to be somewhere you feel you have an opportunity to play and get to grow on the court most importantly... We'll see what happens."
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