Lakers reserve point guard Steve Blake drives against the Blazers during… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
The Lakers will be without another player for their preseason game Saturday against the Utah Jazz. But unlike Dwight Howard (back rehab) and Jordan Hill (herniated disk), Steve Blake's absence has nothing to do with health.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown said he told Blake he plans to sit him so he can give increased minutes to Chris Duhon and Darius Morris.
"Really none of the backup spots are set," Brown said. "Guys are still fighting for the backup spots and fighting to make the team."
Although he had penciled Blake as the favorite because of his two years of experience with the Lakers, Brown now maintains he's unsure who will back up starting point guard Steve Nash -- Blake (two points, one-of-four shooting, three assists), Duhon (zero points on zero-of-five shooting, zero assists) or Morris (five points, one-of-two shooting).
"That's not good," Brown said when told the statistical breakdown. He then joked, "[Darius] is killing those guys, then."
Morris played a limited role last season, averaging 8.9 minutes in 19 games as a rookie. But he's impressed the Lakers' coaching staff with his size (6-foot-4), athleticism, work ethic and summer league performance (15.2 points, 4.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds in nearly 29 minutes a game in five starts). Brown also credited Morris for how he directed the offense when the reserves beat the starters in a acrimmage during Friday's practice.
"He’s strong, he’s extremely fast, but because he’s so fast at times he’s a little out of control," Brown said. "So the one thing he’s doing a better job of, he’s doing a better job of understanding how to use his quickness to his advantage on both ends of the floor, especially offensively. I need him to continue to be quick but don’t be in a hurry. When he gets that down, he’ll have a pretty good chance of being a good player in this league because he’s worked extremely hard on his shooting too."
Morris said he's improved from last season in various ways. He studied elite point guards on film, such as Nash. All accounts say Morris spent the most time practicing at the Lakers' facility this summer. He bulked up from 190 to 205 pounds. And Morris says he's learned to temper his speed.
"It just comes with maturing," Morris said. "That takes time being around the league and being used to being in the NBA. That year of struggles and even a little bit of success I had made it better and slowed the game down for me. I get to learn how to use my quickness. I'm still growing and getting faster. I learned how to slow down a little bit."
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