When the Morris twins joined the NBA, their ascension seemed like a dream come true. After playing basketball together in little league, high school and in the NCAAs at Kansas, they were selected back to back in the 2011 NBA draft. It was the NBA’s summation, one could assume, that they considered the Morris twins to be just about inseparable, so much that teams couldn’t even space a pick or two between the twins’ eventual draft status.
In turns out that the “teams” part of things created a bit of a problem. Both played adequately in Phoenix (Markieff) and Houston (Marcus), but perhaps not to their potential. It wasn’t until Marcus was traded to Phoenix in a benevolent move of sorts in 2013 that both began to take off, with Markieff in particular becoming an absolute standout for the Suns.
Clearly, they’d like to stick together, but the NBA doesn’t always work that way – teams and players and agents and family decisions irrespective of brotherly concerns don’t always work out that way. Still, that won’t stop the Morris twins from trying. They talked about as much during an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, pitched during a charity event in the brothers’ hometown:
"Wherever we're together, it's home," Markieff said. "We just go out there and have fun. The game isn't the same when we're apart."
But soon, they will arrive at a crossroads. Their rookie deals expire after the 2014-15 season and free agency will present challenges. The twins want to stay together, but will an NBA team accommodate them?
"It's a unique situation," Marcus said. "We're just trying to do enough so teams can see us as players, as players, and as a tandem."
"That was our dream growing up - it's our life dream to play with each other in the NBA," Marcus said. "We're together now. We try to make the best of it. Hopefully, we retire together."
That certainly would be fantastic, and we’ve no doubt that the Phoenix Suns wouldn’t mind keeping these two together as their career runs its course.
At a reasonable price, though.
Both players will be restricted free agents next summer, and potentially stuck in the same sort of purgatory that Suns guard Eric Bledsoe currently is, as the Suns’ front office intelligently uses its leverage to keep salaries to a minimum and let the market (for once, in owner Robert Sarver’s tenure) work to the team’s advantage. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has no reason to bid against himself to re-sign Bledsoe, even if he covets his production.
The Morris twins are to be, ahem, similarly coveted, but not to the extent that Bledsoe is. If another team decides to pounce on Markieff with an outsized offer sheet, he may have no choice but to agree to it, and the Suns may have no choice but to pass on matching it. All with no guarantees that this hypothetical team would also offer a deal to Marcus – a potentially smaller contract that the Suns could possibly match after determining it a bargain of sorts, keeping Marcus in Phoenix.
That’s just the way the league works, especially when smart front offices (and the Suns have one) are in play. It’s not sportswriter-ese or shoddy analysis to point out that the two tend to play better when they’re on the same team, that could go for any set of longtime teammates regardless of blood relation, but money has a way of changing things. Markieff may get an offer he can’t refuse, and Morris wouldn’t want to be the bad guy in encouraging him to decline such an offer. All while the Phoenix Suns front office reminds the Morris family and any other observer that, after all, this is a business. The Suns’ salary cap picture, moving forward, is pristine for a reason.
The Suns franchise has been through this before, fielding Tom and Dick Van Arsdale during the 1976-77 season, the only pair of twins to ever play on the same NBA team. There’s no doubt that they probably covet the Morris’ twins production and this feel-good story on equal terms, but they’re not going to pay extra just to keep things together.
In the end, it may take the twins signing for less money in order to stay together. That seems unfair in many ways, but wouldn’t you give up less to play professional basketball with your beloved brother on the same team for as long as possible?
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