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The Morris Brothers' Path of Self-Destruction: Foolishness, indeed

After signing a dream contract extension, the Morris brothers rewarded the Phoenix Suns with a season that just might set the franchise back for years. Thanks guys.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, the Phoenix Suns invested $52 million in Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris. At the time, the deal was seen as a bargain but possibly moreso a feel-good story to keep two very close brothers together on one NBA team for a long, long time to come.

"It's a dream come true," Markieff Morris said at the time. "We'd like to thank the Suns for believing in us. It feels like a family atmosphere and we felt it was right to re-sign as early as we did and be a part of this family for the long term."

How did the Morris brothers reward the franchise for their benevolence and generosity? With one of the worst possible "thank yous" imaginable, culminating in the potential for long-term prison sentences and/or NBA suspensions for their actions off the court.

We may not know the legal outcome of their alleged assault on a former mentor for months. In the mean time, the Suns off season plans are incomplete.

September 28, 2014: Twins sign extensions

And everyone rejoiced.


"This was the only way," Markieff Morris said at Media Day regarding free agency for he and his brother. "If we were open [to being separated] we probably wouldn't have signed [yet]."

At the least, Markieff could have commanded a much bigger payday on the open market this summer than $8 million per year for the next four years. He puts up 15 points and grabs 6 rebounds in 30 minutes per game and became one of the league's best clutch shooters. But he wanted to stay with his brother, so they collectively gave the Suns a bargain in order to sign on the same dotted line.

The Suns were thrilled. With the rising cap, having a pair of legitimate rotation players at a combined $13 million for several years, was a coup.

"All of this was designed to make sure we had no distractions," Suns president Lon Babby said. "That we were able to move forward from that higher level [established last year] and give ourselves the best chance of having another great season."

"We value stability," GM Ryan McDonough said at the time. "We don't want to be a team that turns their roster over every year, especially unnecessarily. We wanted to get our core take care of."

So much for that.

November 19, 2014: Keef says KCP has "no heart"

The Suns were off to a slow start and barely beat an awful Pistons team on the road. Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, having a rough shooting year, had just made two huge shots in the final minute to give to the Pistons a chance to surprise the Suns.

But KCP missed the potential game-winner, a wide open three pointer as time expired, leading to a Markieff quote that still makes little sense, especially since Keef himself contributed just 10 points and 4 rebounds in the win.


To which Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy rightly responded...


Two weeks later, the 3-19 Pistons came to Phoenix and won. Good work, Keef.

Let's start keeping score. The Morrii have so far publicly shown disrespect to

  • an opposing player

This is just the beginning. Sure, players disrespect each other all the time. Not a big deal. But this was the first time Keef had done something like this, and in retrospect this even belongs in the timeline.

January 3, 2015: Foolishness

Joy was missing from the locker room all season. The light-hearted cheerleader type locker room boys - Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas - were gone, replaced by quiet young players waiting their turn to prove they belonged in the NBA. The sage veteran Channing Frye was gone, replaced by an intense young player impatiently chomping at the bit for more minutes.

In their absences, the locker room turned to the Morris brothers to set the tone for the team. They, along with P.J. Tucker, appeared determined to establish the Suns as the bad boys of the league, a brash young group who already belonged and they were willing to rack up the T's to prove it.

But they didn't prove it on the scoreboard. One of the league's easiest first half schedules simply allowed them a chance to worry more about their posing and chest-puffing than a playoff race.

The Suns were 19-16 with a win over Philadelphia, barely clinging onto the 8th spot in the West, when Bryan Gibberman famously implored the Suns to give up the season for a higher draft pick. Forget that the chasm of disparity in the West would prevent the Suns from improving to much better than 12th in the draft lottery. Gibberman's point was to play the kids more and stop worrying about wins.

Marcus Morris responded by blocking Sreekar on twitter (a move which killed Sreekar apparently, since he hasn't been seen since) and tweeting 'Foolishness' back to the BrightSideSun twitter account.


Before his untimely death, Sreekar did design this cool T-shirt at least.


Like the KCP situation, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with a writer about the future of the team. And in fact, I agreed with Marcus here. The Suns needed to push to win every game.

However, in retrospect, it's rare that a player openly reacts to an article like this and it belongs in the timeline.

January 4, 2015: The T's are racking up

The next day, Jim C. talked about the Suns leading the league in techs, referring to the overtime loss to OKC where the Suns and Thunder combined for seven techs. Many Suns players, namely the Morrii and Tucker, had developed a reputation for complaining to the refs during dead balls, sometimes even AFTER they'd gotten the foul call in their favor. It appeared the refs were ready to T them up the moment they looked cross-eyed.


Jim blasted the players not being able to control themselves, and concluded with a prescient line:

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.

If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect an opposing player and the referees.

And in a span of two days, Bright Side predicted (a) that the Suns were deluding themselves in thinking they were a playoff team and (b) the Suns coaches needed to bench players for picking up stupid techs.

Clearly, by now Bright Side was in the Suns' heads.

If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to

  • an opposing player
  • the referees

January 7, 2015: Marcus rips into Hornacek on national TV

Three days later during a game against the lowly Timberwolves, Marcus Morris completely lost his cool. On national TV, he yelled so hard at the coach he was spitting.

Mook complained about a missed foul call, and Hornacek reportedly (by Hornacek himself) used some colorful language of his own to tell Mook to "man up" and stop complaining. Mook took exception to that advice.

Mook didn't see the court the rest of the game. He later apologized, but as you can see with the next entry on this list the team didn't learn any lessons.

If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to

  • an opposing player
  • the referees
  • their own coach, on national TV

January 9, 2015: Technical foul for arguing = ejection

We didn't hear about this new rule until after it happened, but the rule was first employed the game after Mook's blow up. With Markieff and Marcus combining the lead in the league in technicals, it's obvious the source of the Suns coaches' frustrations.

The Suns lost to the Spurs in an awfully ended game where Bledsoe and Tucker both got technical fouls with about two minutes left in a one-possession game. The Ts put the Spurs up by two scores, and Bledsoe and Tucker did not see the floor the rest of the game.

After the game, Hornacek explained the reasoning:

"You know what, we're tired. The coaches have talked about that all year. We're just going to take them out when they get technicals from now on, simple as that."


Thanks Jim.

The players were still in denial, which portended to an awful ending to this saga.

"It wasn't the reason we lost the game. Definitely wasn't the reason we lost the game. It was a bad technical and I apologize for the technical... but the tech didn't lose the game."

--P.J. Tucker, whose ill-timed T turned a one-possession game into a two-possession and his own ejection game with 2 minutes left.

This is another example of the players showing disrespect to the coaching staff, by denying their own negative impact on the game through their hot-headed actions.

January 13, 2015: Keef refuses to speak to media

The act itself - declining to speak to the media after a game - was not the problem at all. The problem was that Keef had just had the game of his life, with 35 points against LeBron James in a big Suns win. The media was all around, waiting for him to finish dressing. The Suns PR person, Julie Fie, implored him to stay to talk. He simply refused. He pushed through the media and barely stopped to talk to Julie before exiting the locker room.

The next day, he went on the air to apologize, but by then the damage was done.

"It was me being childish," he said to radio host John Gambadoro on ArizonaSports 98.7 'Gambo and Burns' of the incident. "I've got to be smarter than that. I need to show you guys (the media) more respect. Honestly, I just wanted to take the day off from media and go home and enjoy my family."


The media didn't really like talking to Keef anyway, so he was rarely even asked for an interview again this season.

If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to

  • an opposing player
  • the referees
  • their own coach
  • the media

January 23, 2015: Yet another T -> another benching -> another buzzer-beater loss

After going six whole games without a T (racking up a 4-2 record in that span), yet another Phoenix Sun lost his cool during a tough game and got himself T'd up. This time it was Goran Dragic, against the Houston Rockets. I'm sure the coach didn't want to bench him, but you can't play favorites and a rule is a rule.

You'd think these players would figure out all you need to do is STOP ARGUING WITH OFFICIALS. It's about winning a game, not demanding respect from the officials. smh.

The Morrii apparently took the loss well....

January 24, 2015:Morrii allegedly brutalize former mentor at high school gym

Less than 24 hours after losing to the Houston Rockets, dropping their record to 26-19, the Morrii went to local gym to watch basketball and reportedly took the time to assault someone in a 5-on-1 attack.

Uh, don't you guys need the rest? You're playing the Clippers in about 20 hours, for chrissake.

The Suns front office didn't know about this alleged assault until a few days afterward, and then only in rumor. The police did not charge the boys until much later in the year.

If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to

  • an opposing player
  • the referees
  • their own coach
  • the media
  • (allegedly) a former mentor

January 25, 2015: Suns lose by 20 to Clippers at home

The next night, the Suns lost by a ton to the Clippers. They were completely outmatched in this game. Keef put up only 9 and 3 in the game, taking only 9 shots, while Marcus scored 13 with 3 rebounds.

Before the alleged assault, the Suns had run their record to 26-19, and were still clinging to playoff position.

January 26, 2015: Coaches lighten up on benching policy

The coaches were tired of the techs, but apparently even more tired of watching their players' inability to handle the pressure of NOT COMPLAINING CONSTANTLY TO THE OFFICIALS.

So they capitulated to the players' request to stop benching them for arguing.

"We talked about it," Hornacek said to the media at practice. "We've tried both ways and we're just going to try to do a better job as a team, as teammates, to corral each other when they start to argue. The guys came up with that."

Another sign of the beginning of the end. In my opinion, this is the act of a defeated coach, unable to comprehend why the players just couldn't follow a simple rule. So he finally said "fine".

While the Suns did reach a high water mark two games later at 28-20, the wheels were already starting to fall off the season by this time.

February 4, 2015: Suns players acknowledge bad rep with referees worse than techs

"We have a kind of bad reputation with refs," Dragic said after the loss on Monday. "Sometimes we don't get a call and they (the opponent) can be extra aggressive."

Despite only replacing Channing Frye with Isaiah Thomas in the rotation, the Suns went from going to the line on 29% of their shots to 25%. And this with Thomas leading the team on free throw rate!

Not only were the Suns getting Td up, they weren't getting the foul calls they should have gotten because the refs were just so sick of the whining.

February 18-20, 2015: Blown up

No need to recap. Suffice it to say the Suns decided to trade a bunch of players, but kept the Morrii.

In the process, they further enabled the Morrii, who so far had publicly shown disrespect to an opposing player, the referees, their own coach, the media and (allegedly) a former mentor. In just the last three months.

February 28, 2015: Keef blasts the fans

The team and the future of the franchise was now laid in Markieff Morris' lap, at least for the time being. Fans were shellshocked, unsure what to make of the team.

It was Keef's responsibility to establish a relationship with the Suns fan base, or at least not make matters worse.

After a particularly awful loss in which the team scored only 24 second half points in a drubbing by the long-hated Spurs, Keef decided it was the perfect time to share his thoughts on Suns fans.

"We need a home court advantage and it doesn't seem like a home court advantage at all."

"Some games are gonna be bad. You can't win every game. We need the support, us as a team, to know the fans are gonna be behind us. I don't feel like this year they're behind us like before."

"No, they don't boo. They don't care that much neither. We feed off, for the most part, off the energy of each other. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. I know we have a lot of genuine fans in the first row, the second row, the third row, but once you go up it seems like fans are at the game just watching."

"You're damn right I feel a difference (on the road). It just don't feel like we got a home court advantage, like I said. It just feels like we got fans from all over they just cheer for everybody."



Check that one off the list, I guess. At the time, I tried to explain their position - though they never asked me to defend them and in fact had never shown any desire for the media to defend them on anything - and agreed that Suns fans were quieter than they could be.

But man. This was after the blow-up trade deadline. This was when the fanbase was iffy in part because they didn't know who to cheer for anymore.

Final score, in the span of four short months the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to

  • an opposing player
  • the referees
  • their own coach
  • the media
  • (allegedly) a former mentor
  • all the fans who paid less than a grand for their seat
"Thanks for the money, Lon! Now go f-- yourself." -- probable comment made at some point...

May 7, 2015: Not guilty plea

The brothers appear to be going with the theory that as long as they deny any involvement, they weren't actually there. Except that witnesses put them at the scene, and convincing testimony from the alleged victim has them part of the fray (especially Marcus).

Why would they even be involved? Don't they know they stick out like a sore thumb (or, in this case, toe). Even the alleged victim couldn't understand why the Morrii allegedly participated in the beating.

Can they get away with this tack? Maybe. But it concerns me that there has been ample opportunity to settle this out of court and nothing like that has happened yet. So why would the alleged victim and/or prosecutors back off now?


If you're keeping score, by late February the Morrii had shown disrespect to everyone but the front office itself.

But if you spent the entire season disrespecting just about everything related to the league, isn't that disrespecting your employers as well?

And isn't that disrespecting yourselves?

Among those transgressions, their off-court actions are some that might end their professional careers.

Sure, the players' lawyer could negotiate down the charges to misdemeanors and get the Morrii off with probation and community service and fines.

But if convicted of aggravated assault, solid prison time is in their future. If they disrespect the process, their attorneys, the prosecutors, or the victims like they've disrespected people all season, I can absolutely see that happening.

Consider the Suns without two solid rotation players next season, including a starter, with nothing to show for it but a stack of committed salary that cannot be used. While the legal process drags on, the Suns will be on the hook for their salaries. Just look at the Gilbert Arenas case for an example of why this is so.

Can the Suns franchise recover from this potential outcome? Yes. But the worst case scenario could delay that recovery for years, and the Suns current five year playoff drought could extend much, much longer.

Foolishness, indeed.

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