Darius Morris knows what it’s like to play in the NBA, but he doesn’t take the NBA D-League for granted. The 6-4 point guard led his Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the D-League Finals, and they are now one win away from being crowned champions.
The 26-year-old was drafted by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Morris backed up Steve Nash and Steve Blake for two seasons, interspersed with assignments to the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders. Morris has also played for the 76ers, Grizzlies, Clippers and Nets.
This year with the Vipers, Morris is having his best season as a professional. Morris has directed the show as the Vipers’ floor general, averaging 20 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game. He’s kicked into another gear in the postseason, averaging 25 points, almost nine assists and a pair of steals per game.
“Darius has been on a mission for a while now, so he’s been locked in,” Vipers head coach Matt Brase said. “He’s been a great leader for us, and he’s got a lot of NBA experience. He’s proven that he is an NBA point guard, he’s been knocking down outside shots, and he’s been dishing out the ball. So we couldn’t be more happy with Darius. He is a man on a mission right now and we’re just rolling with him.”
Morris willed RGV to victory over the Raptors 905’s No. 1-ranked defense in Game 1 of the D-League Finals, pacing his team in both points (23) and assists (11). Add in his seven boards and the three steals, and you get an MVP-caliber performance.
Shining while in the spotlight can’t hurt Morris’ NBA aspirations. Although he says he is determined to make it back to the Association, for now Morris is solely focused on the task at hand.
“I have aspirations individually, but we are so close to the championship, that’s all I can think about,” he said. “We are so close to accomplishing that team goal, everything else is going to fall into place. The sky might be the limit, but I don’t want to think about it. Lock in here, just like I’m going to tell the rest of the guys. I’m not the only one, even the coaching staff. We gotta get it done next game. We can’t get complacent. We really gotta lock in.”
This season, Morris has proven to himself that he is capable of leading a team. He is one win away from adding his name to D-League lore. The journey has not only made him a better individual player, but it’s also molded his belief in the value of the D-League.
“At first, I didn’t think the D-League could give me an opportunity,” he said. “But it continues to grow, better players are coming, and it’s getting more notoriety. You want a D-League championship on your record, so that’s a goal for me. …Any time you have an opportunity to win a championship, you can’t take it for granted.”