Darius Morris had to wait a little while to hear his name called at the Prudential Center on Thursday night, but the former University of Michigan point guard's patience was rewarded when the Los Angeles Lakers made him the 41st overall selection in the second round of the 2011 NBA draft.
While Morris — a rangy Los Angeles native who's been lauded for his skill at running a team and derided for his suspect shooting — was stoked at the opportunity to play for his hometown team, he was a little salty about having to shake the hand of NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, who announces second-round selections, instead of NBA commissioner/first-round host David Stern.
"When I heard my name finally called, it was a relief, but also at the same time, definitely put a chip on my shoulder, getting picked 41st," Morris told reporters after being chosen. "But that's just the story of my life. Never been a favorite, but always been one of the best. So I'm excited about the future."
A little later, Morris also let on that he's still pretty excited about the past, and maybe still a bit salty at his second-round slip, when he was asked about running across former University of Tennessee standout Tobias Harris, a first-round choice on Thursday night, during the draft proceedings.
"[Crossing paths with Harris] was a little crazy, because I ended his career and he's about to start a new one," Morris said.
Morris is, of course, referring to how his Wolverines wiped Harris' Volunteers off the 2011 NCAA tournament bracket back in March with a 75-45 opening-round beatdown, a surprising drubbing that came without the aid of a single made free throw.
Morris is overstating his role as college-career-ender just a tad — while five Wolverines finished in double-figures in the Round 1 win, he wasn't one of them, missing 8-of-12 field-goal attempts on the first day of March Madness to post only eight points. That said, he balanced his poor shooting with a strong all-around effort, something he'll need to do to stick in the pros, adding nine assists against just three turnovers, six rebounds and a pair of steals in a team-leading 37 minutes of run.
Harris, for his part, hit all of his shots from both the floor and the line in the first half to lead Tennessee with 19 points before going ice-cold in the second 20 minutes, during which the Vols got run out of the gym. After the game, the freshman forward from Long Island, N.Y., said his team "just didn't play with heart out there ... Basically, [we] just quit."
On one hand, it was a performance Harris would probably just as soon forget, especially now that he's no longer enrolled in Knoxville. Plus, he's probably a little too busy to focus on this, what with all the celebrating about getting to live out his NBA dreams after being chosen with the 19th pick by the Charlotte Bobcats, a selection Charlotte made for the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team pre-draft trade that also included the Sacramento Kings. Tobias Harris probably is not sweating what Darius Morris has to say all that much right now.
On the other, it would be pretty great if this slight kicked off maybe the lowest-profile personal rivalry in NBA history.
Morris fires a shot across the bow by reminding Harris about college. Harris counters by going scoreboard with, "I didn't hear your interview, guy; I was too busy doing first-round pick stuff. You wouldn't understand." Morris counters with, "What was that, champ? I was having a conversation with Cameron Diaz, Justin Bieber and the cast of 'Glee,' because I am surrounded by A-list celebrities in Los Angeles. Enjoy broing down so hard with LaTroy Hawkins, pal." Harris comes over the top with, "I'll definitely do that, ace, and I hope you have a lot of fun getting beaten at disassembling-remote-control-car races every day by Andrew Bynum(notes), because he's super good at that." And on, and on, under-the-radar and snippy, for the duration of what we hope are decade-long careers.
Unfortunately, Morris didn't seem to want to fulfill my low-heat-feud dreams. After twisting the knife about Michigan's March Madness win, Morris noted that while it was "a little ironic" to see former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl in the run-up to the draft — I guess it is the opposite of what's expected, because you kind of expect a disgraced and fired ex-college coach who's barred from even criticizing the people who fired him because he done goofed so hard to not be anywhere near basketball for a while — he and Harris are kind of embarking on a new journey together.
"... we are there together today, just both starting a new door," he said.
A nice sentiment, closed with a pretty great turn of phrase, tying up a pretty neat late-night draft zing. Even if Darius Morris never gives us anything else in the pros, he's OK by me.