For the third time this season, coach Jeff Hornacek benched a Phoenix Suns player for the rest of the game for getting a technical foul for arguing with the referee over a call (or missed call). This time, it was mild-mannered fan favorite Goran Dragic who got himself benched for bumping a referee while yelling at him after a no-call on a fast break.
Goran Dragic sat out the rest of the game.
The Suns are 1-2 in those games, each of them coming down to the final possession in regulation.
Why would a coach make bad matters even worse by benching one of his best players for sticking up for himself to the referee? It's bad enough that you lose a point on the technical foul, but to lose the game as a result is madness.
Prior to this new rule being in place, the Phoenix Suns led the league with 32 technical fouls called against them in just 41 games. The behavior was bad enough that our own Jim Coughenour asked in his 'Going Gorilla' feature if the Suns were dirty?
Let's take a walk down memory lane - THREE WHOLE WEEKS AGO
Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris lead the charge for the Suns with seven each, tied for second in the NBA. Right behind them are Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker with four (tied for 12th). Goran Dragic (3), Gerald Green (2) and Isaiah Thomas (2) are also in the top 50.
That's seven of the Suns core nine players in the top 50. That's not good.
Who else is near the top of the league in technical fouls?
Russell Westbrook is first overall with nine. Blake Griffin (7) is tied for second and Matt Barnes (6) is tied for sixth.
Basically, players that I routinely hear Suns fans describe as dirty, selfish, arrogant and entitled. They are called punks, jerks, scumbags... and worse. That's the group the Suns find themselves associating with. Slumming around in the NBA's quagmire of moral turpitude.
Jim recounted a pre-New Year game that was so rife with technicals, but the Suns managed to out-T the Ts.
The most recent was on New Year's Eve, when the Suns and Oklahoma City racked up a total of seven technical fouls. Markieff Morris and assistant coach Mike Longabardi were both rung up and Alex Len received a flagrant one right before halftime during a crazy sequence of events in which Russell Westbrook was ejected for taunting the Suns' bench.
The Thunder regained its equanimity during halftime, though, while the Suns piled up two more technical fouls in the second half. Tucker got one in the third quarter and Bledsoe was whistled for another with 5:07 remaining in the game. Kevin Durant made both freebies. The Suns lost the game in overtime. It was another addition to a list of tough losses that have defined this season.
And then Jim laid down the law. Remember, this was January 4, before the Suns had this new rule.
It needs to stop. Their misconduct is costing them games and blemishing their individual reputations as well as that of the team.The Suns need to cut this crap out. They're better than this.
And if they don't, Jeff Hornacek needs to do something about it.
Perhaps benching Markieff's ass for the rest of the game next time he picks up a stupid tech will help get the message across. Then afterwards let him deal with this teammates that he let down and explain to the fans why he can't control his temper during a game.
Four days later, the Minnesota game happened.
Markieff Morris got a technical early in the third quarter of a tie game, putting the Suns in a deficit. Then Marcus Morris got a technical a few minutes later, putting the Suns down two points.
And Jeff Hornacek did something about it.
Marcus Morris was benched and never re-entered the game, which was decided on a missed shot at the buzzer. This time it went in the Suns favor.
The next night, against San Antonio, the Suns were down by three points with 1:57 left in the game when both P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris drew technicals for arguing with the referees, turning a 3-point deficit into 5. They were benched and never returned, and the Suns lost by 5 points.
The next day, the team had a meeting. The coach told the team that, from then on and just like the prior two games, if you get a technical foul for arguing with the referees you will be benched for the rest of the game.
The Suns went six whole games without a technical foul being called, going 4-2 in that span, culminating in a convincing win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
But on Friday, when the game wasn't going their way, the T-bug reared its ugly head again. This time, it was P.J. Tucker drawing a T for staring down and talking smack to James Harden. He drew the foul at the 11:37 mark of the third, basically meaning that any benching would be a full half-game.
Then, fan favorite Goran Dragic went up and bumped into a ref while arguing a no-call at the 6:19 mark of the third quarter, with the Suns down 10.
Tucker returned to the lineup in the third quarter, while Goran Dragic sat the rest of the game. The reason being that Tucker's technical was for arguing with a player. Dragic's was for arguing with a referee.
Rules are not rules if you bend them when they become inconvenient.
Hopefully, this team will learn its lesson. The Clippers are coming to town on Sunday night.