Darius Morris recaps rookie year with LA Lakers

Dylan Burkhardt

Darius Morris raised some eyebrows a year ago when he made the decision to enter the NBA Draft, forgoing his final two years of eligibility at Michigan. The California native was drafted in the second round by the Lakers, made the team and appeared in 19 games while averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 assists in 8.9 minutes of action per contest. Morris sat down with Lakers media on Wednesday to discuss his rookie year and what the future holds.

Additional video clips and some assorted quotes after the jump.

Quotes from Lakers.com

– On his meeting with Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown: “We talked about how much they thought I improved over the season in terms of my game, physically and mentally. It was very encouraging. My mindset, maturity definitely changed over the course of the year. In terms of on the court, just an adjustment to the NBA game.”

– Morris described how crazy and at times difficult it was to go through the lockout as a rookie, being unable to communicate with the team after getting drafted, then having such a short training camp, trade rumors at his position and so on. Then he went from being inactive to suddenly active once Steve Blake got injured in January, and back to the bench with Blake’s return after 13 games. Morris felt like he grew a lot mentally from going through the wild season.

– On Summer League in Vegas: “I think Summer League will be big for me. I think certain teams like me in the draft, but I’ve gotten way better since then. It’ll be a good experience for me, a good opportunity.” He’s right. He’ll get a chance to show how much he improved over the season and what he added to his game. Morris came out early from the University of Michigan, leaving after his sophomore season, and thus is one of the NBA’s youngest players at 21. As such, “potential” is still a word associated with him, but he will be able to showcase his skills against the other young players around the league for two weeks in Vegas.

– While discussing his future, Morris mentioned the importance of being with a team where you think you can play. Of course he loves it in L.A., where he grew up, but seems open to pursuing the best situation for him.

– Morris said that Mike Brown informed him that it’s “not impossible” for him to get playing time next season. “It’s basically up to me to come in ready,” he said. One thing he’s focused on is being able to play both guard positions, as Steve Blake often did in the playoffs. The first step, however, is Summer League.

– On what he wants to work on: “Being on the bench and watching a lot of top point guards, you learn a lot of little tricks. I want to work on those things … watch a lot of film and study a lot of people’s games. A lot of people are gifted and talent so watching film of everybody will help me, especially the point guards.”

– Morris on Kobe Bryant: “I picked up a lot, more because of the friendship we developed. I didn’t expect us to be as close as we got, but it happened, and just seeing him at practice I really observed him a lot. You can’t take it for granted you’re going to always play with one of the best people to ever play the game. His preparation, his focus, the way he goes about his business. Off the court we became good friends and he continues to teach me a lot of stuff.” Kobe was the biggest role model for Morris throughout the season, though he also mentioned Metta World Peace, and how great a teammate he is, how willing he is to help everybody regardless of status on the team. World Peace constantly encouraged his teammates, and tried to keep the team together whenever arguments would rise, something Lamar Odom used to do.

On the Lakers culture: “It was a great place for me to get introduced to the league, because of the winning basketball. (You learn) just (how to) value a possession. Elsewhere, they probably are not worried about playing playoff basketball, which is different. A shot you might take in the regular season, you might not take in the playoffs. I heard a lot of (our) veterans talking about that. With tempo, defense, you have to start stepping (it all) up. There were definitely a lot of things I learned just being on a championship caliber team.”

On having his fellow second round pick rookie Andrew Goudelock with him:“It made it a lot easier, you didn’t feel like you were alone. It was good to have someone there to be encouraging, and likewise for him. Just for us to go through that whole phase together was awesome.” The two rookies played a ton of 1-on-1 and shooting games, with Goudelock taking the shooting contests (though Morris said it got closer later in the season) and Morris winning more 1-on-1 action.

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  • Lankownia

    Great to hear. All the best to Darius. I hope that, in time, those Michigan fans that feel hostility towards Morris or think he made a bad decision come around.

    • Alex

      I agree about the hostility part but I think fans have a legitimate claim when they say he left a year early.

      We’ll never know what would have happened had he stayed.

      Oh well Go Blue.

  • FL Wolve

    The hostility may eventually go away but based on this season, it’s hard to believe that people will change their opinion that he made a bad decision coming out. He should have stayed 1 more season to try to work himself into the first round.

    • eddieben

      I suppose I agree, but “based on this season” could go two ways: 1. he clearly wasn’t ready to play NBA ball, or 2. he may not have had a successful enough college year to move into the first round especially with Trey Burke’s play that would have forced Beilein to eat into Morris’s minutes.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      UM fans still bear hostility toward Darius? That’s a shame. It worked out great for UM with Burke. Darius made an NBA roster, got paid well and got to play with Kobe, Pau, etc. Shouldn’t we just be happy?

    • Ichiro

      Based on this interview, I can’t help but imagine he’s living his dream: basketball 24-7 all season long, being teammates with Kobe, learning, getting better. We might think he should’ve stayed but as a hoophead he’s gotta be thrilled to be living an NBA life.

  • A2JD

    I hope he keeps improving and finds a team (if not the lakes) that he can contribute to. I’d rather have him than Will Bynum in Detroit.

  • ChocoJoe

    Even though he only played garbage minutes at the end of the season, every time he came on the court, he made a play. I think he can replace the aging Steve Blake in due time.

  • Guest

    Even though he only played garbage minutes at the end of the season, every time he came on the court, he made a play. I think he can replace the aging Steve Blake in due time.

  • Mr_Sledge

    It’s great to see D.Mo in the league and hear about the improvements that he’s making. I hope some other teams see him playing well during the summer circuit and give him a shot at some real mins. Given Kobe’s age and the need to win now, I don’t see that opportunity in LA.
    Dylan, on a side note – if you’re looking for articles to write, I’d love to hear your perspective on the alumni support for UM bball. With guys like Darius and Manny making it to the league, I’m curious how much they are coming back to talk and work with the guys we have now. Other than Jalen and Cazzie, I rarely ever hear about past players having anything to do with the program – which is a shame.

    • A2JD

      Tim McCormick, Jimmy King, Rudy T, Dugan Fife and Terry Mills are all guys that come to mind that I’ve seen around the program (on TV, radio and in articles). Travis Conlan came back and is now with the staff.

  • DingoBlue

    Off topic but ESPN released new rankings today for 2013 through 2015 (would link but not working from my current machine).
    Walton #39
    Irvin #61
    Donnal #65
    Hatch unranked
    Devin Booker, Keita Bates-Diop, and Bryant McIntosh all check in on the 2014 list and look at the #1 on the 2015 list.

    • A2JD

      It’s nice to see Towns Jr. ranked #1 but strange that ESPN didn’t put Michigan on his “list”. He’s obviously a big fan.

  • section13row15

    There’s no point to having any hostility towards Darius whatsoever. It was a decision that he made and we as fans need to look forward and move on to the next season just as John Beilein would. He’s done two things that all of us can only dream of: play basketball for UofM and play in the NBA. He’s gone. Get over it.