Kobe Bryant was quite happy about one player from the Laker bench in last night’s win over the Bobcats.
From Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times:
When Kobe Bryant was asked about the Lakers comeback, he credited a player whose performance didn’t stand out on the stat sheet.
“Our bench came in and did a fantastic job,” Bryant said. “Darius Morris is a fantastic defender.”
Morris finished with an unassuming seven points on three-for-six shooting, four rebounds and three assists in the Lakers’ 101-100 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday evening, but his contribution to the team extended far beyond those numbers.
This is what the Lakers have needed for quite some time: defensive punch at the perimeter. Kobe Bryant hasn’t been the greatest defender and tends to play center field on that side of the ball. Metta World Peace doesn’t have the footspeed like he used to (though he still has incredible hands). Chris Duhon isn’t exactly getting it done on that end, either, and Steve Nash’s deficiencies on defense have been well-documented.
Darius Morris is 6’4″ and is big and fast enough to bother opposing point guards. He forced Kemba Walker into a shot clock violation. He also forced Ben Gordon to turning the ball over. Basically, Morris’s smothering defense was one of their big keys in their 18-point comeback against the Bobcats. His statline was modest: seven points, four rebounds, and three assists. But the line doesn’t tell everything and his defense on the Bobcats guards was excellent.
Morris acknowledged that defense is becoming his calling card.
“Before I even started playing, they told me that’s what I got to do, just really play on the defensive end,” Morris said. “That’s what we’re missing and that’s how I can be valuable to the team.”
Morris said that he worked out with Metta World Peace, a former Defensive Player of the Year, during this past off-season.
“He’s given me tips on my angles on defense,” Morris said. “That little bit that he’s given me has really helped me, like watching the defender’s waist instead of the ball really has helped me.”
Morris finished Tuesday’s game with a +20 rating, proving that his new-found concentration can have a big effect on his team.
“Defense, you can bring that every night,” he said.
And if he does bring it every night, he’ll be a key member of the rotation. Morris has had an up-and-down season but if he plays defense like that like he did against the Bobcats, his season will only go on an upward trend.
The Lakers play next Saturday against Golden State, where Steve Nash is hoping to make his return. We’ll see how Morris defends guys like Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack.