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Darius Morris: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_MorrisDarius Morris started 17 games and appeared in 48 with averages of 4.0 points and 1.6 assists in 14 minutes per contest.

The Lakers second-year guard played in all four postseason games, starting the last two due to injuries to Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks. He posted a career-high 24 points in Game 3 and twice tied his career-high with six dimes in Games 3 and 4.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On sitting next to Kobe Bryant on the plane: “It’s truly a blessing … once we became close, he gave me a lot of insight about stuff on and off the court. He became a mentor to me, kept me encouraged, and I really appreciate that. I watch a lot of film on the plane because he’s always watching.”

- On a particular story or moment with Kobe that sticks out: “When I had stopped playing, I’d just gotten out of the rotation, and he told me this long story – he’s always really deep – about Nike. About how Lulu Lemon came out with a new brand and were capturing women’s clothing, and asked why Nike wasn’t doing anything about it. Nike noticed that they can’t win everything, but the big picture is Nike is still very dominant. Always think big picture. I may not be playing right now, but take advantage of him, of Steve Nash, and think about where I can be in this league one day. When something bad happens, you can’t win them all, but think big picture.”

- Morris, a free agent, stated he would like to stay in Los Angeles with the team currently constructed and feels they can come back stronger next year if possible:
“I definitely want to come back, especially how we ended the season. We have a group of core guys that are hungry to get after it. Definitely want to come back and redeem this season. I like coach D’Antoni and the things he has to bring and I wouldn’t mind being a part of it. I would like to have that chance and have a great season.”

- As far as next season is concerned, wherever he may be, Morris would like to become more decisive with the ball in terms of what the defense is giving him: “A lot of times, playing the point guard position, you have to be decisive. If they give you a jump shot, you have to take it. That’s the next step in my game – just to have confidence in that.”

Watch every exit interview on our Exit Interview Central

Morris Seizing The Moment

Second-year point guard Darius Morris gathered a loose ball on the defensive end off a Dwight Howard block, took five dribbles and threw an over-the-shoulder hook pass to the trailing big man for a dunk.

“I just tried to reward him,” Morris said post game after the Lakers 119-108 win over the Rockets.

It was one of five assists on the night for the former Michigan product, who, over the last three contests has posted a total of 12 dimes to just four turnovers.

“Credit that to the game slowing down for me,” Morris said. “Getting that experience and comfort level out there has enabled me to see different things now.”

In those three games – all starts – the 6-foot-4 point guard has filled the void in the starting lineup left by Steve Nash, who suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left leg during the team’s second game at Portland, and Steve Blake, who is recovering from an abdominal strain.

“The fact that Nash has been out, the kid has an opportunity to play,” interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “You don’t get experience through osmosis. He’s had an opportunity to play and I think that’s terrific for him and his confidence.”

With four point guards on the current roster to begin the season, Morris never envisioned he’d have such an opportunity like this – at least not this early in the year.

“Things happen for a reason, so you always have to remain positive,” he said. “To say I could call this? No, not at all.”

Yet even in the offseason, Morris prepared himself for such a situation. Despite limited playing time a year ago (19 games), he showed up at the team’s practice facility almost daily in the offseason, working on his jump shot, while also adding 10 pounds of muscle.

“I just work hard,” he said. “That’s one thing I never stop doing.”

The results are showing, too.

Morris posted a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 from the 3-point line) against Houston, besting his previous high of 10 less than two weeks ago against Golden State.

“He is playing extremely well,” Kobe Bryant said. “He is playing with a great deal of maturity on both ends of the floor.”

Though Nash is out at least another week and Blake is considered “day-to-day,” the Los Angeles native understands his role. Even when those two return, newly hired head coach Mike D’Antoni envisions the 21-year-old fitting into the rotation.

“It means a lot for a coach to believe in me,” Morris said. “I just got to keep showing him that I deserve to be out there.”

Blake, Morris Stepping Up in Nash’s Absence

During the preseason, coach Mike Brown stated what he wanted from his backup point guard.

“I’m looking for a guy that’s going to come in and keep us organized and try to work the ball,” Brown explained after a practice in late October. “I’m looking for someone with energy and someone who’s going to get it right defensively, and keep us organized offensively. If you have the ability to make plays, do it without turning the ball over because you’re not going to be out there a whole lot of time.”

The second-year Lakers coach acknowledged that much, but with an injury to Steve Nash, Brown was forced to shuffle his rotation just four games into the early season, inserting Steve Blake into the starting lineup and Darius Morris as the backup.

In the team’s first win against Detroit, Blake recorded six assists and tied a career-high with five steals.

Morris also chipped in with six points and two assists off the bench, helping lead a second unit that produced 27 bench points.

Brown noted the play of both point guards stepping up in Nash’s absence.

“The two guys we’re playing right now in (Steve) Blake and (Darius) Morris – they got some of the best feet in the league at that spot, so they’re going to have to get up and work the ball,” explained Brown. “Not to get steals, but to see if we can take some time off the clock and try to disjoint our opponent just a little bit – and both guys did that perfectly (against Detroit).”

The Lakers forced the Pistons into 17 turnovers, while limiting them to just 35.4 percent shooting. Detroit’s starting backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight also shot a combined 1 for 14.

“We just tried to pick up defensively and put pressure on the guards, and we made good reads,” said Blake. “Overall we had a good performance.”

Brown echoed similar sentiments regarding both guard’s play on the defensive end.

“I thought (Blake and Morris) were up the floor most of the night, turning the basketball and doing their jobs defensively,” he said.

The offense has looked better, too, according to Brown, even with the absence of the team’s two-time MVP point guard. The Lakers shot 50 and 51.9 percent, respectively, against the Clippers and Pistons, while also scoring a season-high 108 points, and turning the ball over just 15 times versus Detroit – a season low.

“Everyone was more patient,” explained Blake. “We executed the offense, we got the ball inside and our spacing was much better. There were a lot of times the first couple games, guys were rushing into things, which happens with a new offense. But we’ll get more comfortable and better at that.”

With Nash expected to be sidelined for at least a week, the team understands what they need from their floor generals in his absence.

“We just need our point guards to be solid, aggressive, defend and make plays for others,” explained Gasol.

As Brown sees it, both Blake and Morris are doing exactly that.

Darius Morris To Receive Backup Minutes

Minutes were few and far in between for Lakers guard Darius Morris a season ago.

Despite this, Morris put in the work this summer, training at the team’s practice facility on most days. Lakers coach Mike Brown noted the second-year player’s growth.

“The one thing he’s doing a better job of is utilizing or understanding how to use his quickness to his advantage on both ends of the floor, especially offensively,” Brown said. “He’s worked extremely hard on his shooting. It was tough for us to put him out on the floor with spacing purposes, but because he’s had some time under his belt and worked extremely hard on his game, I’m excited for him.”

Brown noted the preseason will be used to determine how he will play certain guys come the regular season. In this case, Morris will be the first point guard off the bench in the team’s third preseason game.

Steve Blake, the assumed backup point guard for the regular season, will be held out of tonight’s contest.

Being an NBA Strength Coach

Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco is about to embark upon his second full season with the team, with his ultimate goal not only to get L.A.’s players as strong as possible without losing functionality on the court, but also to keep them healthy.

As head athletic trainer Gary Vitti likes to point out, DiFrancesco is uniquely qualified to do both since he owns a degree in physical therapy on top of his strength and conditioning background. He’s also no amateur in regards to nutrition.

DiFrancesco took some time to discuss his approach to his craft, the balance between building muscle while not pushing too far, why Kobe Bryant is who he is, the incredible care Metta World Peace takes with his body, what it’s like shopping for groceries with an NBA rookie and more:

MT: How would you define your approach to being an NBA strength and conditioning coach?
DiFrancesco: My overall approach is to try and keep everything as simple as possible. In our industry, there is a lot of crazy, YouTube training going on. An exercise becomes popular because it looks cool, and it spreads on social media and trainers decide to try it with their athletes. But for me, I need to know why I’m doing every single thing I’m doing. There is always a risk/reward. Anything you do in the weight room poses a risk of an injury if you do it wrong, if it’s too much or too heavy, but can also benefit an athlete if done correctly. If I can’t immediately find an answer for why I’m doing a certain exercise, I won’t do it. Fundamentally, with my background in physical therapy, I’m always looking at basic movement patterns. Can they do a basic squat? Can they do a basic single-leg dead lift patter? That gives me a road map with every player I’ll work with, and I’m not going to do anything extreme until I really figure out the movement patterns.

MT: You hear stories about athletes squatting absurd amounts of weight, only to injure themselves in the process. Where’s the balance?
DiFrancesco: That’s back to the risk/reward. Do we blow out a guy’s (back) because he wanted to squat 400 pounds? Congrats, but you won’t be able to do half of that for the rest of your life. We’d have to take a huge risk to get there, and an injury could result. Typically there aren’t bad exercises, there is just bad application of exercises. Especially at the NBA level, I cannot afford to injure players on my end. If a guy gets really sore on a given day and all he did was lift and shoot, then that could mean I (pushed too hard). What I do or don’t do can either protect the players or make them more susceptible to an unnecessary contact injury. I’m very cognizant of players improving performance wise and physically, but just not at the expense of an injury.

MT: Anybody watching these players glide and explode up and down the floor can see that they’re among the world’s most impressive physical specimens; but what is it like to specifically train an NBA athlete versus a football player, for example? Aren’t they doing different things in the weight room?
DiFrancesco: NBA athletes are really, really good at making their body do amazing things … within the scope of basketball. That’s what they love to do, what they crave doing. They want to play, on the court. Football players are very different, because they play only once a week. They do what the sport requires to build themselves up from a strength standpoint. Now, NBA players are of course genetic freaks, but doing basic level functional patterns is not typically as easy for them. They struggle with that at times. When you can clean that piece up for a player, it only enhances their already off the charts athletic ability. In other words, someone may have a great vertical and great speed, but what would happen if we added really clean movement patterns to that and got a guy stronger? Well, your career gets extended and you perform at a higher level. The levers of basketball players are a lot longer, and strength training isn’t as ingrained in professional basketball players as it would be in football players. Especially if some of our guys only went to one year of college and just started lifting there, that’s hardly any experience practicing such a skill, which takes time to develop like anything else.

MT: We know how manically Kobe Bryant has attended to his physique and fitness over his 16-year career. Is this an ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ situation for you?
DiFrancesco: With a situation like Kobe’s, I never came in saying I want to get my hands on him and mix things up and put my stamp on it. The stamps are already there, and we all know the results. I don’t need to mess with something that’s being done so well at such a high level. That being said, at certain times that allow for my expertise to assist in what’s already there in his foundation, I enjoy that opportunity. Just from having been around him, a word that comes to mind regarding his approach to taking care of his body is ‘obsessive.’ I think it’s important that using the word obsessive doesn’t need to have a negative connotation. Most people that are exceptionally great at what they do for a long period of time are obsessed with what they do, and to me there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. He understands as well or better than anybody what it takes to fine tune, to maintain or improve the function of his body and he’s constantly obsessed with that. He knows more than anybody that his weapon is his body and he maintains and cares for that weapon fanatically. That’s why he does what he does.

MT: Darius Morris has been a constant presence in your weight room since last training camp, and he’s gotten quite noticeably stronger and bigger. What’s been the key?
DiFrancesco: Darius bought in. He said, ‘You tell me what you want and I’ll do it.’ For example, contacted me at 8 a.m. on the day of Game 5 at (Oklahoma City) last year in the playoffs. He knew he most likely wasn’t going to play in the game, and it would have been easy to take the attitude of, ‘The offseason is coming soon, I don’t need to lift today.’ Instead, there we were getting an early work out in.

MT: Morris is clearly a gifted athlete; how has he developed since the first day of training camp last season?
DiFrancesco: Darius came into the league with pretty decent movement patterns, which saved me the time of cleaning much of that up, and let us get after it right away. Since he’s a point guard, we really focused on putting some additional lean mass on his already athletic frame. That can help at a position where you take a beating going into the paint, with that lean mass being bulletproof. So we got his weight up while adding in the right amount of protein to help him recover, and he really did a great job. I never had to follow up on him; he did everything I asked for.

MT: How much does nutrition come into play, using Morris as an example?
DiFrancesco: It’s generally a matter of being able to get away with not paying much attention to one’s diet thanks to being athletically gifted. But at some point, a player realizes that if he’s trying to put a puzzle together of being the best player he can be — and he takes care of his skill and lifting workouts — the other piece is nutritional. Many NBA players aren’t doing as well as they could there. Darius, this offseason, has started to realize that. He and I actually went grocery shopping the other day.

MT: Please, tell us more…
DiFrancesco: He showed me what he normally gets, and I tried to provide some better options.
For example, in the produce section, he said, ‘I don’t usually get much from here.’ I said, ‘OK, if these were in your fridge, what would you eat?’ We determined that he’d eat oranges, some mixed veggies laid out on a platter and pre-packaged salads. But he just hadn’t thought about having that stuff available. Moving on in the store, he said he likes honey mustard, so he showed me the kind he usually gets, but sugar was the first ingredient: high fructose corn syrup acts as sludge in the blood stream and makes everything less efficient. It’s never a malicious intent to eat badly, it’s just a habit, and it’s my job to show him the kind of mustard that’s more healthy.

MT: Still enjoying this. What else did he buy in the past to which you gave him a more healthy alternative?
DiFrancesco: He loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches*. Many of the ‘classic’ peanut butter like Jif or Skippy is nothing but saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup, and one of the last ingredients is peanuts. If you can instead get a whole wheat bread, a peanut butter like Justin’s (which has three ingredients, peanuts, salt, small amount of unprocessed sugar) and a better jelly, the PB&J can be much more healthy for you. So Jif to Justin’s is a simple change, but it makes a big difference.
*Editor’s Note: Show me an NBA player that doesn’t love PB&J and I’ll call you a liar. It’s definitely the most consumed item on the Lakers team plane every year.

MT: How about the things we drink? There’s Mountain Dew (my personal favorite) and other soda, Snapple and so on available on the team plane after every road game…
DiFrancesco: I’ll have a Diet Coke once in a while because I want the carbonation, but I try to keep it to water as often as possible. There’s no way for me to justify drinking calories. I want calories to make me feel full by eating them. It makes a big difference, especially in athletes, who don’t realize the impact that the nutrition piece has. It’s one thing that I can really bring to these guys to help them perform at their best, the knowledge when it comes to nutrition.

MT: Won’t Steve Nash help you push that nutrition mission, based on what we’ve heard about how great he takes care of himself?
DiFrancesco: Second hand, the information I have suggests that nobody gets that more than Steve Nash, so I’m really excited about it. Somebody that has that much credibility makes my job a lot easier when I’m trying to create good habits for Darius. It’s one thing coming from me, and another coming from a two-time MVP in this league.

MT: Apparently, nobody comes close to Metta World Peace in how to take care of one’s body?
DiFrancesco: He was extremely helpful for me last year because he does a great job with his nutrition and recovery habits. He takes that stuff very seriously, and younger guys in our locker room started to see that. (CLICK HERE for more on MWP’s fitness habits).

Morris Shines in Summer Loss to Spurs

The Lakers dropped their fourth consecutive summer league contest on Tuesday afternoon against the Spurs, 92-81, but got a strong individual game from point guard Darius Morris to highlight a better all-around team effort.

In three quarters of action, Morris did not miss a shot from the field, connecting on all nine of his attempts, plus six free throws to hit a Lakers summer league high 24 points with his team-high four assists. L.A.’s summer league coach Chuck Person opted to rest Morris in the fourth, letting rookie Darius Johnson-Odom and second-year guard Andrew Goudelock get some extra minutes.

The Lakers would get as close as six points with two minutes to play before Spurs wing Kawhi Leonard, who starts for their senior squad alongside Tim Duncan and Co., proved too much with his game-high 27 points and eight boards.

L.A. got 14 points and seven boards from 60th pick Robert Sacre in his 26 minutes, but it was Morris who took the game ball, showing some of the promise that helped make him the 41st selection in the 2011 Draft.

A big point guard at 6-4, Morris led the Big 10 and ranked fifth in the country in assists during his sophomore year at Michigan. He put on a good deal of muscle in his rookie year that he showed off while finishing through traffic in the paint on Tuesday.

He told us after a 50-point blowout loss to Miami in the team’s third game that he was disappointed with his performance in the first three contests, and wanted to respond against San Antonio with the kind of game he’s capable of playing.

Morris knows that, of course, Steve Nash and Steve Blake are ahead of him on the team’s depth chart on the senior squad, but treated the Nash acquisition with excitement, as he’s eager to learn tricks of the trade from one of the best to ever do it.

Still just 21 years old, Morris has plenty of room to grow, and – at least until training camp – one more contest to show L.A.’s brass how far he’s come in a year.

Game Notes:
- Christian Eyenga added 13 points and four rebounds with a block in 30 minutes of action.
- Andrew Goudelock played only 18 minutes, scoring seven points on 3 of 7 field goals, including one of his patented floaters.
- Reeves Nelson provided some terrific energy off the bench towards a game team-high +13 while he was on the court. He grabbed three boards with a block and five points in his 15 minutes.
- No. 55 pick Darius Johnson-Odom grabbed four boards in his 13 minutes, and continued to play solid on-ball defense on the perimeter.
- After shooting in the 20′s against Miami in a 50-point loss, L.A. shot an impressive 51.7 percent from the field, but allowed 47.8 percent to San Antonio, who made five more three pointers than L.A.’s one in seven attempts.

Morris Accepts LAL Offer for 2012-13

Darius Morris accepted the Lakers qualifying offer for 2012-13, which will keep the former second round pick in Los Angeles at least through next basketball season.

Morris, who appeared in 19 games while averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 assists in 8.9 minutes per game as a 21-year-old, improved throughout the season while putting in extra time at the gym – both on the court and in the weight room.

He’s eager to show his improvement at the Las Vegas Summer League, in which L.A. plays its first game on July 13.

“I think summer league will be big for me,” he said at his exit interview. “I think certain teams liked me in the draft, but I’ve gotten way better since then. It’ll be a good experience for me, a good opportunity.”

Morris hopes to earn a larger role in Coach Mike Brown’s rotation next season, but recognizes that he needs to prove why minutes should be his starting in Vegas and moving through the summer and eventually October’s training camp. He feels he’s a step ahead having learned a lot through his rookie season.

“(L.A.) was a great place for me to get introduced to the league, because of the winning basketball,” he explained. “(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.”

Fellow second rounder Andrew Goudelock was already signed through the 2012-13 season as well. Goudelock and Morris will join 2012 second round picks Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre on the summer league squad, in addition to Christian Eyenga.

Lakers.com will be there to cover the proceedings starting on July 13.

Darius Morris: 2012 Exit Interview

Darius Morris completed his rookie campaign having appeared in 19 games, averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 assists in 8.9 minutes per game as a 21-year-old.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- 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.

No. 41 pick Darius Morris: Q & A

Growing up playing in the parks of Hawthorne, Inglewood, Compton and Long Beach, Darius Morris never imagined that one day he’d hear his name called at the NBA Draft with the words “Los Angeles Lakers select” in front of them.

Morris joined us on Friday afternoon while still in New York with his family to detail his background, share his emotions on draft night and what it could be like guarding Kobe Bryant on the first day of training camp:

Q: On when he had his first thought of making the NBA one day:
Morris: Around the time I was 9 or 10 years old I started playing organized basketball with a team in Los Angeles called ABA hoops, and we went to nationals and played against the best team at the time. Team Maryland ended up winning, but we still performed, we were right there. My dad looked at me in the eye one day and told me, you can make it. He’s just always supported me whatever I wanted to do.

Q: On where he grew up in Los Angeles:
Morris: I grew up in Hawthorne, and then Redondo Beach, and then Carson. Then as a freshman in high school I went to Windward. But in those years my dad would drive me to all the inner city places to play: Inglewood, Long Beach, Compton, so I could go against the better competition. My older brother is eight years older than me, and I’d go to the park with him while I was growing up. He’d know where to get a good game. By the time I was in middle school I started playing in gyms, while also playing AAU ball, so there was always good competition. Often when my dad drove me it was to league games, and my brother would take me to the park. A few courts we’d go to were St. Andrews in L.A., and Derby Park in Inglewood. Those are places where you know you have to perform.

Q: On the impact of his parents: My mom definitely emphasized education, that’s why we went to the neighborhoods that we did, like Redondo Beach, and my high school. My mom wanted me to go to a private school. We were blessed with an 80 or 90 percent scholarship but my parents both worked very, very hard. My dad is a supervisor at the post office in Marina del Rey, and my mom is a manager at public housing in Inglewood.

Q: On his experience at Windward, a private school just off where the 405 meets the 10 freeway, leading to his going to the University of Michigan:
Morris: I was used to going to public school, so it was an adjustment to go to Windward. When I first went there, everyone was saying I wasn’t going to be recruited because it was a small private school. But by the end of the senior year I became the best point guard in Cali, and went on to win a state championship. Then I got recruited to Michigan, and I felt like I could be part of something special there.

Q: On being drafted by the Lakers:
Morris: It was emotional … it was an honor. My dad, mom and brother, and agent were all there. It was crazy going to the Lakers. We used to watch them play all the time. After MJ left the Bulls I didn’t have a favorite team, but the Lakers were in my back yard and I was able to watch them a lot. I think Kobe’s the greatest player in the world.

Q: On potentially defending Kobe on the first day of training camp:
Morris: That’s going to be crazy. I was thinking about guarding (Derek) Fisher and (Steve) Blake, hadn’t really thought about guarding Kobe, but I’m not intimidated, I’m excited. I believe I can play with anybody, and I give anybody their props.

Q: On if the Lakers needing some guards to come in and earn minutes makes the situation more appealing than a team already full of young guards:
Morris: Yeah, definitely. People might think I’m a 41st pick, a second rounder, so I won’t be playing, but I think this is the best situation for me to both develop as a player and have an opportunity to contribute.

Q: On what he’s like on a personal level:
Morris: I’m funny and smart once you get to know me. I mostly just like to hang out with the family.

On his top five artists to listen to:
1) Big Shine, 2) Fabolous, 3) Joe Budden, 4) Jag (new from artist from L.A.) 5) Trey Songz

Lakers Select Darius Morris at No. 41

Growing up in Los Angeles, Windward High grad Darius Morris never could have imagined that he’d one day play for his hometown team.

But with the 41st pick in the 2011 Draft, the sophomore out of Michigan heard his name called by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, officially making him property of the Lakers.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d get drafted by the Lakers.” he said. “It was always my goal to play in the NBA, but I never thought I’d be playing for the Lakers in my home town. It’s really great, a dream come true.”

Morris, a 6-5 guard, was an All-Big 10 3rd Team selection as a sophomore after a season averaging 15.0 points, 6.7 assists & 4.0 rebounds. Morris led the Big 10 and ranked fifth in the entire country in assists, setting a school record for dimes in a season (235).

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he was surprised Morris was still there at 41, as he’d been rumored as a possible late first round pick, and jumped at the opportunity to select him. Kupchak and his staff went into the draft looking to select back court players particularly since the team isn’t certain if Shannon Brown will pick up his option for 2011-12, and liked what both No. 46 pick Andrew Goudelock and Morris could bring to the table.

“Darius is very (talented) with the ball in his hands,” said Kupchak. “He’s a younger player, so perhaps there’s more development to come.”

Morris described himself as a playmaker who can read what the defense gives him, make the players around him better and use his size to exploit mismatches in multiple ways.

“I put out a different look being able to play like a small guard but have the size of a big guard,” he said. “On defense I can guard the one or the two, depending on the matchups, and also on the offensive end being able to take advantage of smaller guards and being quicker than bigger guards whether it be scoring or passing.”

Morris said he’d most like to improve his three-point shooting heading into training camp, as he shot only 22.3 percent in his two years at Michigan from long range.

“It’s something I’m really going to attack hard in my workouts in the offseason so that I’m covering all facets of the game,” he explained.

Kupchak said that while it’s generally difficult for second round picks, both Morris and Goudelock can make the team out of training camp, saying that both possess the talent to do so. In the meantime, Morris is feeling pretty good.

“I’m very excited,” Morris said. “It’s truly a blessing for them to pick me.”