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We have no way of getting inside of Markieff Morris’ head, right now. We’re not saying that because he’s a twin. We’re not saying that because of the unfortunate incidents that marked his 2014-15 season, and we’re not saying that because he’s part of a generation that, despite screaming advancements in terms of communication and social media, can swiftly get to pick and choose whom they decide to ignore via smartphone.
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We’re saying this because different people handle disappointment in different ways, and it’s fair to assume that Markieff Morris is rather disappointed right now. His Phoenix Suns traded away his twin brother Marcus Morris in a bid to secure cap space in the squad’s failed attempt to sign LaMarcus Aldridge, who plays Markieff’s position. Some would be fair in speculating that the Suns also had other motives for breaking up the duo, which had spent two and a half seasons together in Phoenix.
BG: Have you talked with Markieff since everything that's happened this summer?
JH: I've texted him a few times. We might try to go see him this week. We'll be out on the East Coast.
BG: Does he seem like he's doing OK with how everything went about?
JH: Yeah, I'm sure just like anything else, whenever a trade, especially with as close as him and his brother are, there was some hurt feelings for a little bit. It's a case where they're going to do their best wherever they're at. Once you get into the season, and you get with your team, they've played apart before too, they will be fine.
And Bright Side of the Sun’s Dave King relayed, after speaking with the general manager, that Suns GM Ryan McDonough has yet to talk to Markieff either:
"I think he's at a reasonable place now," McDonough said of what he's heard via others in the organization. "I don't know if it's a good place or not. I think he's processed all of it, he had time to let the rawness, the emotional part of it wear off."
As King points out, this seems like projecting.
For McDonough to guess that Markieff Morris, who is working out in Philadelphia, is “at a reasonable place now” and that “he’s processed all of it” less than three weeks after his team dealt his beloved twin brother and attempted to sign a power forward replacement is a bit much, especially after failing to connect with Morris. That failure to connect likely isn’t McDonough’s fault, Morris probably isn’t answering texts and phone calls (other Phoenix staffers have made contact with Markieff), but it’s hard to believe Markieff would get over something as upsetting as this so quickly.
After all, look at his last tweet, following the deal that sent his brother to Detroit:
These pages are often littered with ex-players talking about transactions that shook their careers in immeasurable ways. Trades, attempted trades, free agent signings or defections, wrongly-fired or wrongly-hired coaches – these sorts of professional adjustments, no matter the professional, are rarely gotten over easily. If at all, for the duration of a player’s career.
The Morris twins were selected with consecutive picks in the 2011 NBA draft, with Markieff heading to Phoenix and Marcus moving to Houston. Marcus was initially considered the better prospect after a stellar career alongside his brother in Kansas, but he struggled in his first season and a half as a Rocket prior to being dealt to Phoenix. Again working on the same team (if not often alongside each other) the pair thrived, and were rewarded with a pair of contract extensions totaling $52 million that the duo was famously allowed to chop up as they saw fit.
Markieff took the bulk of that contract, and rightfully so, as the duo entered what many hoped would be a playoff turn for the Suns in 2014-15. It turned out to be a rather grumbly year, however, as the Suns lost endless close games as several Suns rotation players (including the twins) regressed. Markieff totaled 15 technical fouls and Marcus 10 while Suns coach Jeff Hornacek threatened a high school-worthy bench-fest for anyone that endlessly carped at the referees.
The Suns won just 39 games a year after hitting for 48 wins, failing to make the playoffs as star guard Goran Dragic was traded after complaining about his role. The postseason miss wasn’t lamentable as much as the way the team’s season turned out was disappointing, because even with the excuses of all those losses at the buzzer the joy and spirit that marked the team’s 2013-14 (with the Morris twins providing much of that energy) was completely absent in 2014-15.
Markieff thought it a good idea to complain about the team’s (understandably, at times) quiet home crowds. Worse, the two were charged with felony assault just after the regular season ended.
This is why the Suns probably presumed that the chemistry that made the twins so formidable playing in the same uniform began to go toxic as time moved along. In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney, GM McDonough slyly hinted that the deal that sent Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to Detroit for just about nothing (a conditional second-round pick in 2020 that the Suns will probably never see) wasn’t just to clear up millions in cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge:
"We decided it was a deal we would have done independently of whether we got LaMarcus or not, just for roster balance and future flexibility reasons," McDonough said.
That is to say, “whether we get LMA or not, we’re tired of ten technical fouls and felony charges from a reserve small forward that we may not need anyway.”
Anyone who took a passing glance at the NBA’s Summer League noted that Suns swingman T.J. Warren displayed excellent offensive gifts in Phoenix’s near-title run. The 2014 lottery pick, a consolation prize for scoring 48 wins and missing the playoffs, seems ready to step in at small forward after a rookie season spent buried on the bench and in the D-League. Signee Mirza Teletovic, when healthy, can swing between forward spots in the same way Marcus Morris could, and both P.J. Tucker (who mostly started last season) and even possibly wispy (but quite talented) rookie Devin Booker can play small forward.
Markieff Morris, meanwhile, will get all the minutes he can handle at the power forward slot.
The Suns signed Tyson Chandler to a four-year deal prior to trying to nab Aldridge, a curious move considering the team used a high lottery pick on center Alex Len two years ago. Neither Chandler nor Len will be able to switch to the four spot because of the way the NBA is played now, and though Teletovic can play spot minutes at the position and Jon Leuer remains a quality deep reserve, this position is all Markieff’s.
He has the talent, because though Morris’ production dipped last season he still started 82 games and was capable enough on both ends. The question for Markieff is whether or not he has the heart to play on a different team than his brother, despite that four-year, $32 million contract kicking in this year.
You might be busting out the tiny violin right now, but these guys have spent just 14 months of their entire basketball lifetimes playing on separate teams, and that season and a half (thankfully shortened because of the NBA lockout) didn’t go swimmingly for either. We have no idea how longtime teammates are going to respond to break-ups in any basketball culture, much less a culture featuring two twins that seemingly go out of their way to act, look, play and talk alike.
Marcus called his trade “a slap in the face.” Markieff won’t pick up a phone, and LaMarcus Aldridge is playing in San Antonio this year. The Suns have cap flexibility, solid young players and an intriguing and versatile roster. Still, this will be one of the stranger situations to watch this season.
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