Sunday Practice Report

Here is a roundup from Sunday’s Lakers practice in advance of the team’s New Year’s contest against Philadelphia. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Steve Nash Effect
In four games since his return from injury, Nash has averaged 9.5 assists, including two double-digits outings – one against New York and one against Portland.

While coach Mike D’Antoni expected this much of Nash, Pau Gasol has also recorded at least five assists in five straight games.

“We’re creating more advantages and more odd-man opportunities, and trying to be aggressive in the pick and roll,” Steve Nash said. “I think in the pick and roll, with two guys on me, I give it to Pau where he’s got an advantage and he can use his playmaking abilities. With Pau’s size, it’s a great skillset we can exploit. “

Gasol noted the effect it has on the rest of the team.

“It’s important to have guys facilitate and willing to make the extra pass because it’s contagious,” he said.

The Lakers are averaging nearly seven more assists per game – 28.3 to 21.4 – since Nash’s return. L.A. is also putting up 109 points per game since the Canadian’s return, right at the cusp of the goal of 110-115 points per game Mike D’Antoni said could be expected during his introductory press conference.

Darius’ Defense
Second-year guard Darius Morris has started the last four games, primarily because of his athleticism and solid size. While he’s been playing on the wing on the offense Steve Nash is running, Morris has started out defending tricky point guard covers like Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Denver’s Ty Lawson and Portland’s Damian Lillard. Morris played only 16 total minutes on the former two, but was key in 24 minutes against the Blazers, helping hold the likely Rookie of the Year in Lillard to 11 points on 4 of 17 shooting with four assists.

“He’s been terrific defensively, playing with energy and he brings a physical presence,” Nash said.

Morris added eight points, four boards and two assists against Portland, the highlight a strong two-handed alley-oop finish from Kobe Bryant’s lofted pass.

Jordan Hill’s Impact
After a stretch of three DNP-CD’s, Jordan Hill finds himself playing regular backup minutes to Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in the last four contests, where he’s recorded at least eight rebounds in three of those games.

“It’s not the personnel as much as this guy fits better with this guy,” D’Antoni said. “In this situation, we need Jordan’s energy, his defense, his ability to get offensive rebounds his ability to run the floor and be a big presence and having some youthfulness and legs.”