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Phoenix Suns have very few options with the Morris twins

While many fans would like to see the Suns cut ties with the Morris twins as quickly as possible, the most likely scenario is that the Morris twins are here to stay as the legal process plays out.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns have more to worry about than the NBA draft, free agency and trade season this summer as they try to improve next year and swallow this bad-tasting season.

All while the team is trying to flesh out some more permanence on the roster and slow the roster churn, it's quite possible that two of their top eight rotation players - including one starter - will miss at least some of the 2015-16 season serving jail terms.

Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris have been indicted by a grand jury on felony charges for aggravated assault, stemming from an assault that allegedly took place in early January.

It's important to note that there is a long way to go in this process. All that's happened so far are indictments. There is still the matter of prosecution, and the old "innocent until proven guilty" on which our legal system is based. This could be a long, drawn-out process to come, Suns fans.

There could be a plea deal. The charges could be dropped at any time. But if convicted, the Morris twins could face some jail time. Even if they serve the time during the off season, the NBA may very well suspend the players for one or more games next season, marking the third straight season the Suns would start the year with a player suspended (Markieff in 2013, Tucker in 2014).

"The franchise has emphasized character a lot over the years, and we've definitely seen flaws in the character of the roster in this past year," Paul Coro said on the Bright Side podcast this week. "And it's not reflective of the way the coach was, and the type of players he expects to have and so I think that's going to be one of the big changes."

The Suns have promised, from Lon Babby to Ryan McDonough, to bring in more veteran leadership to the team. They admit the team got too young and that the roster was too void of leadership. When the season began, the strongest (though not loudest) personalities on the team were the Morris twins, who had just signed on to commit their next five year together in purple and orange.

"They were empowered a bit," Coro said on the podcast. "They verify each other's thoughts. These two guys go home every night together with the same thought pattern, spend all night together and confirm each other's thoughts."

Now that can work in the positive - the twins spent a ton of time working on their games last summer and came back ready for bigger roles this year - but can also work in the negative.

"They think the officials are against them," Coro continued. "They think the schedule is against them, they think the league is against them. It's those sort of things that they need to grow out of. They've been in the league four years, long enough to know.

"In their exit interviews, I give them credit. Both of them talked about the need for leadership on the team, and they're probably looking in the mirror and know that THEY need it."

It's going to be a rocky summer for the twins, and might have a negative impact on the team's building efforts toward a long-term roster.

What options do the Suns have?

I posed some questions to Amin Elhassan of ESPN, who worked in the Suns front office for several years before shifting into media.

1) Could the Suns void their contracts on the character clause in standard contracts?

When the player violates Paragraph 16 of the standard NBA contract. The team can void the contract when the player:

Fails, refuses, or neglects to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined as not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not these acts constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship.

Amin: Could they? Depends on what ends up happening. If they plea down to a misdemeanor, probably not. If it's a felony with no actual jail time served, probably not. If they go to prison for a year, yes.

2) If the Suns cannot void the contracts, if there any reason to dump them like they did Michael Beasley?

Amin: Beasley didnt get released because of run-ins with the law. He got released because he was a god-awful free agent signing, and he agreed to a buyout

3) Even if they could void the contracts, why WOULD the Suns just let the Morrii go for nothing? is this felony thing big enough to kill their trade value entirely?

Amin: You answered your own question. Even if the twins serve jail time (like 30 days), they're still productive players on increasingly more valuable contracts.

4) How would you counsel the Suns to handle this?

Amin: Let the NBA do the dirty work. Make the twins do extra community service.

On the podcast, Coro weighed in on the possibility of splitting up the twins and the impact on their psyche.

"If you were able to trade Marcus and not Markieff," he replied. "I don't think Markieff goes in the tank. I think they've progressed enough, and grown up enough, to the point where they don't need each other to raise each other's game. Even before Marcus came, Markieff was a hard worker. He's improved every single season. They are on pretty good contracts in terms of NBA value."


The Suns have few reasonable options beyond keeping the players and allowing the legal process to play itself out. They could conceivably trade one or both of the twins, but the likelihood of another team picking them up with the threat of jail time and/or league suspension is slim to none.

This all may blow over, too. A judge may dismiss the charges or find the Morris twins not guilty if there's not enough evidence. The twins could also plea down the charges to a misdemeanor and get probation and community service.

We need to let it play out.

Foolishness, indeed.

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