Entering the 2012-2013 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers were expected to be stronger at point guard than they had been in almost two decades.
They traded for Steve Nash in the offseason. After years of having Derek Fisher as the team’s starter, Nash was set to be L.A.’s best point guard since Magic Johnson. Adding this new dynamic was one of the biggest reasons that Los Angeles became the favorite in the West, and was picked by many to defeat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Injuries, however, have prevented things from working out as the Lakers had planned.
Nash suffered a fracture in his left leg during his second game with the purple and gold. His return is unknown. Now, Nash’s primary backup, Steve Blake, has been lost for several games. He missed the team’s last three contests with a strained abdomen, and won’t play on the team’s upcoming road trip.
The injuries will force Los Angeles to rely on two options that they didn’t expect to make a major impact this season. With Nash and Blake unavailable, the onus has fallen on Darius Morris and Chris Duhon.
Can the two backups step up in the Lakers time of need?
Morris and Duhon are two very different kinds of players, and L.A. had hoped that they wouldn’t have to rely on either of them. Morris is an unproven commodity who’s played in just 28 games, since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Duhon was once a quality backup point guard, but is on his way out of the league in his ninth career season.
In Blake’s recent absence, Morris has gotten the start with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt. The second-year man has been mostly quiet as a starter, averaging 5.3 points and 3.8 assists per contest on just 36 percent shooting.
Blake’s injury has also forced Duhon into splitting time with Morris. He has yet to score more than six points or dish out more than three assists in a game.
Despite the point guards’ lack of an impact, L.A. has gone on a winning streak with the two in the lineup. The Lakers are 3-1 since the two started getting major minutes. They lost the only two games that Nash played.
Morris and Duhon’s presence in the rotation might be proving that L.A. can get by without a good point guard. With Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the lineup, the Lakers have plenty of players that can score. Bryant has played without an elite point guard for his entire career, and has shown that he can thrive without one. Assuming that Nash will be back later in the season and in the playoffs, Los Angeles might be just fine with the combination of Duhon and Morris.
Mike D’Antoni coached his first game with L.A. on Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets. His offensive system has always helped point guards thrive, even ones that weren’t traditionally very good. Duhon had his best season under D’Antoni. He registered career-highs with the New York Knicks in 2008-2009, putting up 11.1 points and 7.2 assists a game.
“Linsanity” exploded under D’Antoni, as Jeremy Lin became one of the top point guards in the league last season. With the Houston Rockets this year, Lin hasn’t been nearly as productive.
Morris and Duhon haven’t shown many signs that they can be even average starting point guards in the NBA. However, if anybody can get something out of them, D’Antoni can.