Energetic Morris ready to help Sixers' young PGs

slideshow-sixers-darius-morris-uspresswire.jpg

Energetic Morris ready to help Sixers' young PGs

Darius Morris came to the Sixers this past summer in free agency. The former backup Los Angeles Lakers point guard said the opportunity to get more playing time was appealing and so was the chance to impart NBA wisdom to rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams.

“I want to come out here, play and compete and help the team win, whether I am coming off the bench backing him up or whatever it may be,” Morris said. “I am not really worried about that [starting]. It is a long season. They drafted him. I think he is a great player.

“There is no vet here at the point guard position, so me having starts in the league with the Lakers and playoff appearances, there is a lot I can teach him.”

Morris has 17 career starts, including two in the playoffs last season against San Antonio.

Morris (6-4, 195) said he could have returned to the Lakers and that his agent also had conversations with the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Ultimately, Morris felt the Sixers were the best fit for him.

“Going into my third year, I just wanted an opportunity to compete,” Morris said. “With Steve Nash and Kobe (Bryant), there is a log jam in L.A. They are great guys, but I wanted more opportunity.”

That opportunity coincides with a rebuilding process, which in no way scared Morris off.

“When I went to Michigan, they were rebuilding with Coach (John) Beilein,” Morris said. “That first year was rough. Nobody wanted to go there. We were at the bottom of the Big Ten. Now they are on top. I think it is the same thing with Philly, I don’t think they will be down for long.”

Morris hopes to help with bringing the Sixers back to prominence. Head coach Brett Brown doesn’t exactly know where Morris fits just yet, but he is certain the guard will have an impact.

“I don’t know,” Brown said when asked of Morris’ role. “I tell you what, he brings a lot of energy and his pickup points baseline to baseline and his defense and pushing the ball. We have some people in the gym that you can see a bomb squad emerging as a second group, that if you needed to change up the tempo, play small ball and junk it up a little you could and create some energy. “

Sixers fan will quickly know who Morris is on the floor. He will be the player wearing a plastic mask on his face similar to the one Rip Hamilton has worn for so many years. That’s because Thaddeus Young’s forearm found Morris’ face in a pickup game last week, breaking Morris’ nose.

“I broke it on Monday, had surgery on Tuesday and then they took all the stitches out on Friday,” Morris said. “Now I have to wear a mask for about two months. That was my welcome to Philly.”

NBA trade deadline: Buyer's market? Lakers got next to nothing in Lou Williams trade

NBA trade deadline: Buyer's market? Lakers got next to nothing in Lou Williams trade

If the two NBA trades this week indicate anything, it's that we're in a buyer's market.

Two days after DeMarcus Cousins was traded by the Kings to the Pelicans for a shockingly light return, Magic Johnson made his first move as the Lakers' new head honcho, shipping Lou Williams to Houston.

In exchange for Lou-Will, the Lakers got Corey Brewer and the Rockets' first-round pick, another surprisingly modest return.

Williams, 30, is having the best season of his 11-year career and it's not just because he was playing big fish on a bad team. You'd think the Lakers' lack of talent would result in somewhat inefficient scoring from Lou-Will, but that's not the case.

He's averaging a career-high 18.6 points, shooting a career-best 38.5 percent from three and 88.4 percent from the line. Only once, 2009-10 with the Sixers, did Williams shoot better than his current 44.4 percent from the field.

Because Williams signed his three-year deal with the Lakers before the salary cap spiked last offseason, he's underpaid in the current NBA landscape. He's owed just $7 million next season, a team-friendly salary for a player who can provide instant offense off the bench.

Brewer is a non-factor in the trade and won't have much of a future role with the rebuilding Lakers, so the trade was basically Williams for a very late first-round pick. The Rockets are 40-18 and would pick 27th if the season ended today.

Picks that late in the first round just aren't that valuable. Over the last five drafts, only eight of the 30 players selected in the 25 to 30 range have even cracked an NBA rotation. And two of them are Spurs, which is almost like its own separate category given how regularly San Antonio unearths talent in the draft.

Even those who've cracked rotations after being drafted 25-30 over the last five years are not impact players: Pascal Siakam, Larry Nance Jr., Andre Roberson, Miles Plumlee. Keep in mind that's a good scenario for that late of a first-rounder. The only two actual difference-makers drafted in that range the last five years are Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela.

Keep this return in mind when wondering what the Sixers might be able to recoup in a deadline trade of players like Ersan Ilyasova or Nik Stauskas. 

It's a worse return for the Lakers than the Kings received on draft night last summer for Marco Belinelli. Sacramento traded Belinelli, a journeyman bench player, for the No. 22 overall pick.

Could the Lakers have possibly gotten less than the 27th pick if they just held onto Williams and traded him in the offseason?

When I opined last night on Twitter that the Lakers didn't do well in the Lou-Will deal, a few people replied that the Lakers aren't trying to win, they're trying to finish with a bottom-three record and keep their pick rather than ship it to the Sixers.

But keep in mind that finishing with even the second-worst record in the NBA guarantees the Lakers nothing. The team that finishes with the second-worst record has a 55.8 percent chance of landing a top-three pick. The team that finishes with the third-worst record has a 46.9 percent of chance of landing a top-three pick.

Far from a sure thing.

One sure thing is the Lakers won't be catching the Nets for the league's worst record. Even if the Lakers go 0-24 the rest of the way to finish 19-63, they'd still need the Nets to go 11-15 or better. Brookyln's lost 14 games in a row, so that ain't happening.

Ersan Ilyasova looks to re-find rhythm as All-Star break concludes

Ersan Ilyasova looks to re-find rhythm as All-Star break concludes

The Sixers resume practice on Wednesday and Ersan Ilyasova will look to be recharged and refocused when he hits the court in Camden. The veteran power forward is determined to find his rhythm after hitting a shooting snag prior to the All-Star break.

“I need it right now, just get away from basketball,” Ilyasova said of the time off following the Sixers’ final game before the break. “Obviously, the last week was kind of up and down. The season is long. Obviously, you have to get your mind out of it. It’s good timing.”

Ilyasova’s plans for the break included traveling to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he owns a home, to spend time with his wife and children who live in Milwaukee. He hoped unwinding with his loved ones would help him move beyond his struggles at the basket.

Ilyasova scored a total of 10 points off a combined 4 for 16 from the field and 1 for 7 from three in the Sixers’ last two games against the Hornets and Celtics.

After shooting above 40 percent from the floor each month since being traded from the Thunder in November, Ilyasova shot 35.6 percent in February. More significantly, his three-point shooting dropped from 35.4 percent in January to 23.4 percent this month.

So what’s caused the hiccup for Ilyasova, who had been a consistent double-figure contributor earlier in the season? There are several factors in play.

“It’s tough,” Ilyasova said. “Obviously, a lot of things going through your mind. Obviously, being a free agent next year, you’re going to kind of overthink it sometimes. It’s like I said, the season is long.”

While Ilyasova’s contract expires after this season, he isn’t pointing to that as the root of all his struggles. He remembers being in a skid like this before when he played for the Bucks and understands it comes with the territory of the league.

“I am not going to say it’s just because of free agency,” Ilyasova said. “You have 82 games, you can’t play perfect. Sometimes you have good games and bad games. Last week I was kind of out of rhythm and missed a lot of shots.”

Ilyasova arrived in Philadelphia with an ultra-professional attitude and his effort is not going to change whether or not his shots are falling. Ilyasova is averaging 5.3 rebounds this month, including three games of nine boards or more.

The Sixers won three of their last four games before the All-Star Break, and even though they weren’t his best offensive performances, Ilyasova is more concerned about the final result.

“It’s not about one person,” he said. “We’re doing something right to win the games. I’m going to try contribute the best way I can.”