Last night, Markieff Morris was benched after throwing a towel at Jeff Hornacek, in the third quarter of another ugly Suns loss. There has been no video of the incident, but several eye witnesses offer similar reports, as relayed by Paul Coro.
Morris was upset about being pulled from the fourth quarter from a 12-19 Suns team. With 9:47 to play and Denver leading 84-75, Morris was taken out of the game and he threw the towel while barking at Hornacek. Hornacek picked up the towel and threw it back Morris' way with his own upset words for him.
Since the Phoenix Suns can't seem to trade Markieff Morris for any kind of value at the moment, another alternative might to be suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team.
Morris has reportedly been a model citizen since returning to the Suns in late September after his summer trade demand, and was clear last summer that he will be a professional if not traded.
Morris was fined by the league for his trade demand ($10,000), but his actions have since coming back to the Suns have clearly been geared toward avoiding any more monetary losses.
After reportedly throwing his towel at coach Hornacek, we can expect some kind of discipline for Morris to be announced soon.
"He's mad about not playing," Hornacek said after the game. "I look at the stat sheet, he's a minus 13 in 12 minutes. So there, I took him out. He thinks he's better than that. Well, show me."
Morris has been truly awful this season when he's played. Last night, he was 2 for 8 on shooting, and had pulled down just one rebound against a team playing only one player over 6'8" on their front line.
Overall, Morris is shooting 37.8% from the field this season, and his stats are down across the board in every category. He has made 50% or more of his shots in only ONE game this season, has not pulled down double digit rebounds at all, and has committed 4+ fouls in 8 of 22 games in which he's played at all. Even worse, he's got the worst plus/minus on the team despite being slotted next to the Suns best players most of the time.
Morris, for his part, wouldn't politic to the media. He never does.
"That's between me and ‘H' (Hornacek)," said Markieff to Paul Coro. "It's not for media. It's something between me and him that happened. We'll talk about it."
Hornacek said the exact same thing in his own post-game press conference: "We'll talk about it."
What can the Suns do in this instance?
And has Morris finally done something so bad he can be suspended without pay until a trade materializes?
I'm not a CBA reader, but word on the street indicates the Suns can suspend him for a maximum of two games for conduct detrimental to the team. The same suspension has been levied on multiple players in recent seasons, including Gerald Green of the Miami Heat last month.
But then again, Andrew Bynum was suspended indefinitely by the Cavaliers two years ago before he was ultimately released.
What will the Suns do with Markieff Morris?
It's unclear what latitude the Suns have here. If Morris is facing some unpaid time off he and the players' union will appeal the suspension. The heftier the Suns' discipline, the quicker the appeal will be filed.
The Suns would probably prefer to trade Morris for something of value right now, similar to how Robert Horry was traded in the aftermath of throwing a towel at coach Danny Ainge twenty years ago. I'm sure Suns GM Ryan McDonough has sought the advice of his former mentor, now Boston's GM, on how to handle the situation.
In my opinion, Morris is playing the Suns like a fiddle, doing just enough to get paid to ruin a team's season while getting paid his full salary to do it.