There wasn't much for Mike Brown to smile about after the Lakers trailed by as many as 27 en route to a 19-point rout.
But, after opening his postgame remarks by admitting it was an "ugly game from us," Brown couldn't help but break out a grin and chuckle a little bit when talking about how rookie point guard Darius Morris played.
"The rook came in and he was either feast or famine, which was OK," said Brown. "It was his first taste of NBA experience."
That first taste was more than just a nibble because starting point guard Derek Fisher sat out Monday as a preventative measure as he continues to work himself back into playing shape. And so Morris played just 34 seconds less than Steve Blake on Monday and was the lone true bright spot for the Lakers, finishing with 11 points, three assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes.
"Coming out that tunnel, it was just an honor," the L.A. native and Winward School graduate said of wearing his No. 1 Lakers jersey for the first time.
Morris made an immediate impact when he checked into the game as Brown's first substitute midway through the first quarter.
After Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum combined for three straight turnovers, Morris found the ball in his hands as the shot clock was winding down on the possession. Rather than playing hot potato with the ball and dumping it off to a teammate, Morris rose up and connected on a 22-footer before the 24 seconds had eclipsed.
"I think that was like the ice breaker for me," Morris said. "For that one to go in was a huge boost for my confidence."
He wasn't done there. Before the quarter was up, he made two more buzzer beaters.
The first came when his own shot taken from the baseline missed badly off the side of the backboard. Rather than be embarrassed, he collected the rebound and put up a bank shot that went in with the shot clock ticking down.
"I was a little nervous and it definitely showed on that shot coming off the backboard, but Coach Brown always says, ‘Just keep playing,’ so I didn’t get down on myself," said Morris.
He added another 20-footer to tie the game at 28-28 as the first quarter ended.
While Morris' 5-for-9 clip from the field was unexpected, his most impressive play of the game came in the fourth quarter when he pushed the ball up court and used a nifty spin move to get by his defender before finding Bynum for a transition bucket on the other end.
"My nickname in practice is ‘Wheels’ because [Brown] says I be moving out there," said Morris. "That’s what he wants me to do is push the ball and just try to create easy looks for our teammates. You know, come up and present a different kind of tempo when I check in the game and try to put pressure on the defense."
If he keeps playing the way he did Monday, he'll put pressure on Brown to continue to find minutes for him when Fisher returns to the lineup.
Bynum finished with a pretty good line of 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, but he was disappointed in himself for going just 5-for-11 from the field and 5-for-11 from the foul line.
With a career shooting percentage of 56.9 percent from the field and 68.6 percent from the foul line, he prides himself in being more efficient than that.
Bynum didn't peg his struggles on the 6-11, 265-pound DeAndre Jordan who was guarding him (although he admitted Jordan blocked a couple of his shots).
Rather, he blamed his night on conditioning.
"They tested our fitness and we failed," Bynum said. "For me personally, I had some nice looks I need to make and practice just getting up and down the court, just really sprinting because obviously I was tired."
Added Bynum: "After the first six minutes I was heavily winded, so in practice I’ll have to work on getting up and down the court ... When I get my game legs it will be a bit different."
The most remarkable thing to happen on Monday wasn't the fact that the Clippers romped. It was the fact that Brown actually called Bryant out in his postgame remarks, something that Phil Jackson, the master of the barbed sound bite, would generally avoid doing.
"Kobe is going to be fine offensively," Brown said. "But defensively, Kobe was just as guilty as everybody else at not contesting shots and so he as well as the rest of the guys have to make sure that they focus in on that area of the floor."
Matt Barnes got the starting nod at small forward, but played just 11 minutes (all in the first half) and went 0-for-3 from the field with three rebounds and an assist.
Devin Ebanks started in his place in the second half (a planned substitution, not a move based on performance) and did the most with his 13 minutes, scoring seven points on 3-for-3 shooting along with a rebound and a steal.
"Devin, and he’s been doing it all training camp, he’s been making shots and that’s been a positive from that small forward spot because you’re going to get some opportunities when you talk about having Kobe on the floor with Andrew and Pau," Brown said, assessing the starting race after the game. "If he can step up and make shots and defend, then he might get an opportunity."
Before Paul went off for 17 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals, Brown was asked for his scouting report on the dynamic guard:
"He has the ball in his hands quite a bit and they run multiple pick-and-rolls for him on the same possession. He’s a guy that can make plays. He makes the game easier for everybody around him and if he’s not making plays for others, he’s making plays for himself. He’s one of the best at it in the business. He has an uncanny quickness about him where you think he’s going in slow motion and all of the sudden he’s by you getting a layup or he’s throwing a lob dunk to somebody and it disheartens you. So, not only is he talented offensively, but then defensively too he impacts the game by getting steals and causing havoc on the other end of the floor. So, he’s a tough go."
While Morris seems to be amused by his "Wheels" nickname, Josh McRoberts isn't a fan of his "McBob" moniker. (Come on, this space is called "The McTen," you didn't think I'd get to the bottom of this?)
McRoberts, who had just two points and two rebounds Monday but played with energy and even mixed it up with Blake Griffin at one point, says his friends back home in Indianapolis just call him "Mac."
As for the origin of McBob?
"Some dumba-- on a blog came up with it," McRoberts said.
Locker room changes: McRoberts has Joe Smith's locker; Andrew Goudelock has Shannon Brown's; Zach Andrews has Theo Ratliff's; Troy Murphy has Lamar Odom's; and Jason Kapono has Trey Johnson's.
The other new sights to see were Bryant's wedding band missing from his locker (he used to put it on right before speaking to the media) and this placard on Metta World Peace's cubby.
Quote of the night: "I walked in with an ironing board. I just came from Target." -- Brown on what he did with his time immediately before coaching his first game with the Lakers. The coach likes to iron his shirt himself as a pregame routine, even though the shirts have always been to the dry cleaners already. Make sure to read this feature by Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins to learn more about Brown's quirks and habits.
Stats of the night: The Clippers blew it open in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers 36-17. The Clippers shot 54.5 percent to the Lakers' 40 percent in the period and had just one turnover compared to nine by the Lakers ... Of the Lakers' 21 total turnovers leading to 29 points for the Clippers, Brown estimated the Clips caused 17 of them with steals, pressure and deflections ... After 25 minutes of playing time, World Peace has still yet to score his first bucket with his new name. He went 0-for-8 from the field, including an 0-for-5 mark from 3 ... It was the Lakers' first game at Staples Center in 230 days and the Clippers' first game there in 251 games.