Last night, the Phoenix Suns played the Minnesota Timberwolves, and squeaked out a gritty victory on the road in a game that was much closer than many had anticipated. The Suns improved their record to 22-16, and their winning streak to four.
However, that was mostly overshadowed by a heated exchange that was captured by the television cameras midway through the third quarter, after Marcus Morris appeared to be upset by a foul that wasn't called, and received a technical foul from the ref.
The camera's captured a visibly upset Marcus yelling, or at least talking loudly, in very close proximity to Suns' head coach, Jeff Hornacek. The exchange ended when assistant coach Corey Gaines got in between them, and escorted Marcus away toward the bench.
Here's the full video of the incident:
Of course, this looked bad...real bad.
One thing you just don't do as a player is argue or fight with your head coach. In fact, if all sports had a list of Ten Commandments, it would probably be at the very top. It's a mostly unspoken rule in sports that you barely even have to acknowledge, based on how rarely it actually happens with professional athletes.
So when you see a player who looks to be doing just that, it is seen as a big deal, and rightly so.
However, a video with no sound may not accurately portray what was actually being said.
While I'm no lip-reading expert, you can see at the beginning of the exchange Marcus pointing to his nose and saying something along the lines of "it was a f-ing foul", "He fouled me".
Now, those lips were moving pretty fast and there is no indication about what was being said by Hornacek either, but even when I first watched it, I was inclined to believe that this actually looked much worse than it actually was.
In my opinion, it looked like a player who was upset and frustrated over not getting a foul called against the other player, and receiving a technical for complaining about it, venting to his head coach when he was told to take a breather.
Does that make it ok? Of course not. Professional athletes have to realize that their actions will always be scrutinized by the media and the public. And, if they are picked up on camera having an emotional outburst, people may automatically assume the worst.
In fact, as a lifelong Dallas Cowboys' fan myself, I've witnessed this time and time again with star receiver Dez Bryant, who has become a focal point of the cameras, just waiting for an eruption on the sideline.
Of course, what they don't tell you, is that his perceived outbursts are usually overwhelmingly positive...even when they look like a tantrum.
Now I'm not saying Marcus was trying to rally the troops or saying anything positive at all...He was definitely upset, that much is clear. But I also don't think he was actually yelling at Hornacek the way many seem to believe he was.
In fact, Marcus was asked about it after the game by Paul Coro of azcentral.com, and his remarks seem to validate that.
"It was heat of the moment," Morris said. "Coach knows I've got a lot of respect for him. As soon as the game was over, I apologized to him and the team, especially the younger guys for them having to see that. I felt like I got hit in the nose and my nose was bleeding and he had took me out so I was really upset about it.
"When I apologized to Jeff, he said, 'You don't have to apologize.' He knows. He's been a player. I hate that it had to be televised like just because it seemed worse than what it was."
To Marcus's credit, he didn't wait for the media storm before addressing the fans and the public on social media either.
Gotta be a better professional for my younger teammates , and can't let my emotions get the best of me.. Love my coach and my team Great win— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) January 8, 2015
This was a classy move by Marcus who immediately took responsibility for his actions, and accountability for how his outbursts could be perceived by not only the public, but also his young teammates who he understands may look up to him.
Not to make excuses, but basketball is an emotional sport. On the one hand, we want the players to be fiery and competitive. So when those emotions sometimes spill onto the sidelines, should we really be so surprised?
Again, it's not so much what actually happened, but how it appeared to everyone who witnessed it. Marcus knows he messed up, and immediately made amends with all parties involved, including the fans.
Nothing more needs to come of it, really. Those who are pining for Marcus to be traded, fined, benched, or what have you, are probably taking it much more seriously than the coach or his teammates are.
Still not sold? Well, maybe we should just let Hornacek explain it instead.
"He was mad about it and I took him out and that's the way it is," Hornacek said. "He's fine. We're all competing for the game. He said some thing sin the locker room to the guys. All good and you move on."
And there you have it.
All is forgiven and the team appears ready to move on from it...and I'm ok with doing the same.