Markieff Morris expected to join Lakers soon after excused absence
Forward Markieff Morris is not with the Lakers in Orlando because of an excused absence, according to a person familiar with the situation. Morris is expected to join the team soon.
Morris is the only Laker expected to be in Orlando for the restart of the season who is known to not be with the team.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel was asked about Morris when he spoke to reporters through a videoconference on Wednesday evening.
“I’m not going to comment on which guys are here and which guys are not here out of respect for our players’ privacy,” Vogel said.
That has been the Lakers’ official position since players were able to return for mandatory individual workouts. Vogel and Rob Pelinka, Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations, have shied away from answering when asked whether players have tested positive for the coronavirus or if any players are unavailable for practice.
Most of the team flew to Orlando on Thursday and entered a 36-hour quarantine. The Lakers’ first practice was Friday, but occurred without center Dwight Howard, whose quarantine had to last one day longer because he did not arrive with the team. Howard had been in the Atlanta area with his family.
Anthony Davis was among Lakers players who were torn about whether to keep his name on his jersey or use a social justice slogan. He chose to honor his family.
Morris signed with the Lakers on Feb. 23 and played in eight games for them. He averaged 14.8 minutes per game and 4.8 points per game.
KCP ready to step in
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been the team’s regular starter when Bradley has been unavailable this season. He’s confident he’ll be able to fill the role as effectively now.
“I don’t think it affected us at all, just the same as when Avery was out at the beginning of the season,” Caldwell-Pope said about the mental impact of losing Bradley. “I did start 20 games. I’ll just pick up from where we left off at, play hard and do what I do.”
This will be the first time since the 2012-13 season that the Lakers have made the playoffs. It’s been a while for Caldwell-Pope as well. His last playoff appearance came in 2016.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last four years,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Just getting a taste of that in 2016 and then now having an opportunity to do the same here, I feel great about it. Just over four years, my game has expanded. I’ve grown a lot in areas I needed to be better at. And I think I’m ready for this opportunity.”
The Lakers, Clippers and Bucks were the clear favorites to win the NBA title in March. One expert says as many as nine teams are now in the title discussion.
Nuggets forward makes a statement
Jerami Grant, a forward for the Denver Nuggets, had a message he wanted to send, and he didn’t stray from it when he addressed reporters on a video call Wednesday.
Grant spoke about equality and social justice. When asked about basketball, he made sure to bring the focus to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Ky., in March, while they were serving a search warrant at her home for a man already in custody.
Grant first did that when asked how he and his teammates were occupying their time when not at practice.
“I think it’s great to be here with my teammates, great to be back playing basketball, but for me personally and I think a lot of players it’s imperative we focus on what’s really important in the world,” Grant said. “One thing for me is Breonna Taylor’s killers are still roaming around free so I just want to focus on that with these interviews and things like that. So I just want to keep the focus there.”
Grant answered similarly when asked about the return of his teammate center Nikola Jokic.
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