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Gamble pays off for Lakers' Darius Morris

The reserve point guard signed for only one year after being drafted in 2011, so that he could become a free agent. Morris got a more lucrative deal and recently has received more playing time.

November 20, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times
  • Darius Morris recently has received more playing time.
Darius Morris recently has received more playing time. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

There's a job waiting for Darius Morris when his NBA career ends. He should be an agent.

The reserve point guard wasn't just your average second-round pick when the Lakers took him 41st overall in the 2011 draft. He took a small financial risk and was ultimately rewarded for it.

Second-round picks in the NBA typically receive nonguaranteed contracts for two years, but Morris signed for only one year so he could become a free agent last July.

He thought he would impress the Lakers enough to earn a more lucrative contract in his second year. They liked what they saw of him and signed him to another one-year deal for about $950,000, doubling what he earned his first season.

Andrew Goudelock, on the other hand, was on the nonguaranteed two-year pay scale. He was cut by the Lakers during training camp. He would have made $760,000 this season. Goudelock was taken five picks below Morris in the 2011 draft.

"It's kind of bold, especially for a second-round pick," Morris said of his contract gamble. "You just have to have faith and believe everything's going to work out for you as long as you work hard."

Score one for Morris the negotiator.

Score one for Morris the player as well.

He has experienced a rapid uptick in playing time because the team's top two point guards are injured. Steve Nash isn't expected back until at least Friday because of a small fracture in his left leg. Steve Blake is day to day because of a strained abdominal muscle.

Morris scored a career-high 12 points and added five assists in the Lakers' 119-108 victory Sunday over Houston.

"I just needed to get some reps. It's unfortunate that both of our point guards go down, but it has enabled me to get some valuable minutes," said Morris, who seems more at home in Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni's wide-open system.

"Just watching Nash while growing up, D'Antoni's offense definitely opens the floor a lot. It enables the point guard to make decisions, make plays. Being a pick-and-roll guy all my life, it kind of fits my game well."

The Lakers like Morris's energy, even if he pushes the pace too quickly at times and has to regain control of the ball. They also like his defense.

"I think he's getting better," D'Antoni said. "We've got to keep slowing him down and showing him film."

Morris, 21, will be a restricted free agent in July.

"I would love to stay in L.A.," said Morris, who went to school locally at Windward High before playing in college at Michigan. "I have a lot of friendships out here. There's no better place, but after the year is over, we'll see what happens."

One thing's for sure. He probably won't become an agent when his playing days end.

"Yeah, I don't know about that," he said. "But I definitely want to put my brain to use."

Day to day

D'Antoni will be a game-time decision Tuesday against Brooklyn, a funny thing to say about a coach.

He hoped to make his Lakers coaching debut Sunday against Houston but was talked out of it in no particular order by his wife, Laurel, and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

D'Antoni had knee-replacement surgery recently.

"I'm going to try," he said. "We'll see. I don't want to say 'Yeah,' and then don't do it again, so we'll see. Every day it gets tenfold better."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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