The Clippers signed former Lakers point guard Darius Morris on Monday night, barely an hour before their 101-81 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Morris played just under eight minutes, scoring a single point with a rebound and assist. He missed all three of his shot attempts and split a pair of free throws.
The Clippers needed to add a point guard after Chris Paul went down with a separated shoulder, knocking him out for six weeks.
On a 10-day contract, Morris needs to quickly make an impression.
“I told him to call two plays, and I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t realize that it was probably the first time he heard those words in his life, let alone the play,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers after the win. “That wasn’t wise on my part. The smart thing is he ran down there and yelled the play out. I don’t know if he knew what was going to happen after that.”
Morris was originally drafted by the Lakers in 2011 with the 41st overall pick. After two seasons with the team, he moved on to the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent.
After 12 games with the 76ers, averaging 6.9 points and 2.6 assists in 16.1 minutes, Morris was released.
“I think Michael [Carter-Williams] came on really strong and [Tony] Wroten came on strong as well. I was playing well, but I think they were committed to them financially,” said Morris. “I wish them nothing but the best. Coach [Brett] Brown was great. [General Manager] Sam Hinkie was great. It wasn’t my play. ... They assured me of that.”
Instead of joining the NBA Development League, Morris worked out privately, believing he’d get another chance in the NBA.
"[The Clippers] decided to bring me in for a workout this morning. I talked to Doc, and he said they’d make a decision maybe in three or four days,” said Morris. “Around like 4:00 p.m., they just told me, ‘Get to the gym.’ ”
Morris was somewhat disappointed when the Lakers chose to sign Kendall Marshall after multiple injuries at the point guard position.
“I think Kendall’s performances in the D-League kind of caught [Jim] Buss’ eye,’ ” said Morris. “It’s just an honor just to be considered. When you leave somewhere, kind of mutually, just to have that they would think about you is a great feeling.”
While he didn’t get another chance with the Lakers, Morris is glad to see Marshall have success.
“I was happy for Kendall. You learn that in this league, when you have the right attitude about other people’s success, it helps yours,” said Morris. “That’s what I love about the NBA. It just keeps you humble. You can be up, and you can be down, but you learn that the great ones are that just stay level. Watching Kobe [Bryant, he] just stays level.”
Morris said the Lakers were willing to bring him to training camp on a partially guaranteed contract, but he thought he’d have a better opportunity in Philadelphia.
By the time the Lakers made the playoffs last year, injuries thrust Morris into the starting lineup. Without Kobe Bryant (Achilles), Steve Nash (hamstring) and Jodie Meeks (ankle), Morris started against the San Antonio Spurs alongside former Laker Andrew Goudelock.
In Game 3, at Staples Center, Morris scored 24 points with six assists while shooting 60% from the field.
Morris said he’s grateful to Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni.
“D’Antoni expanded my game and my reputation,” he said. “He threw me out there on the fire, had me in different positions that maybe a lot of other coaches wouldn’t put me in -- guarding Carmelo [Anthony] on Christmas Day.”
The Clippers needed to bring in a player quickly to back up Darren Collison.
“I know he can defend. You can see that. Now we have to get him to understand the team defensive part of it,” said Rivers of Collison. “I like his body. I think he can handle the point position.”
Morris has just over a week to impress the Clippers. Teams can sign a player for another 10-day contract before having to either commit for the rest of the season -- or let them go.
Morris stays grounded in his faith and strong work ethic.
“I can’t wait, tomorrow I’ll get to practice and try to get this playbook down,” he said.