Lakers’ Morris Trying to Capitalize On Unexpected Opportunity

The latest is that Steve Nash will be re-evaluated Monday, that coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday it is “possible” Nash and Steve Blake could play as soon as Tuesday, that Nash pretty much dismissed the idea, and that Darius Morris is somewhere in the middle of the uncertainties of health and calendar.

The strange, conflicted update could only be considered typical for Morris and his very unpredictable season. From being a third-stringer whose best hope was to push into the rotation to backup Blake when Nash fractured his left leg to surprise starter barely into his second season when Blake strained an abdominal muscle.

“It really did happen so fast,” Morris said.

A little less than a month ago, he was sitting on the bench in Portland’s Rose Garden just before the season opener, and telling another guard, Chris Duhon, the Lakers looked really stacked with backcourt depth and, Morris recalls, “I wonder if everybody will get an opportunity this year.” Fast forward. Nash has missed 10 games, Blake five, and Morris has received two emergency promotions to instantly go from interested observer most nights to important part of a team trying to find its footing and re-establish itself as a championship threat.

“That’s where you have to be strong,” Morris said. “You do have so many great options around you. But it’s your job as a point guard to go where you feel is best and what you see the defense is giving you. It does get a little tough at times because everybody wants the ball at once, but that’s where you’ve just got to try to stay strong.”

It helps to have Kobe Bryant healthy, playing very well and able to take some of the ball-handling responsibilities. In five games as the starter, after coming off the bench five other times, Morris is averaging 6.6 points and 3.4 assists in 27.4 minutes while shooting 40.7 percent. Duhon is his backup.

“It’s huge, especially if you’re trying to guide four or five Hall of Famers out there and you’re the point guard,” D’Antoni said of the mental side of a player in Morris’ place needing to handle the expectations that surround the Lakers. “It’s not easy. I think he’s doing a great job. Down the road, this is going to benefit us, the Lakers, for sure, and him personally.”

Nash has been ruled out for tonight in Memphis and Saturday in Dallas. The next game is Tuesday back in Los Angeles against the Pacers, the night D’Antoni considers a possibility for the return of his preferred point-guard tandem, although as Nash told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles News Group on Friday, “I don’t think so. I can’t jog yet. We’ll see. Maybe.”

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