When the Phoenix Suns traded away Marcus Morris earlier this month, it was obvious that neither of the Morris twins approved of the move to separate them just a year after they'd committed to new four-year contracts with the club for the chance to play together.
It was "a slap in the face," Marcus said at his Pistons introductory press conference. "Forget Phoenix."
Markieff has not spoken publicly since the trade, simply tweeting out his reaction on that day.
Lol this a foul game here man!— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) July 2, 2015
Dream Come True
The trade ended an era in Suns basketball where the twins were inseparable. They shared a house in Phoenix, drove to the games together, worked out together, got the same tattoos, had the same hair styles and growth of facial hair. Everything they could do to, basically, be the same person.
Pairing the twins on the Suns in 2013 had always in the plans for Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby.
"Every time we played the Suns," Marcus Morris said of his first year and a half in Houston. "I would see Lon and he would tell me he's coming to get me."
"That's off the record," Babby quipped as the story came out in their press conference last fall to announce the signing.
After enjoying a successful 2013-14 season together coming off the bench for the Suns, the Morris twins agreed to contract extensions at the earliest possible moment in an attempt to keep them together for the long haul.
"This was our dream to play on the same team," Markieff said at that press conference.
They did play better together on the Suns than they had in previous stints apart. Markieff Morris became a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and then a full time starter, while Marcus became a prominent rotation player at both forward positions. Together they produced nearly 26 points and 11 rebounds in 55 minutes of playing time per game last season with Markieff starting all 82 games and Marcus starting 35.
If their positive contributions on the basketball court were all that we knew about them, they'd still be together on the Suns.
But everything else about the 2014-15 was a struggle when it came to the twins. For whatever reason - and you could think of a dozen, I'm sure - the twins did not handle this past season well.
The problems just piled up last season. From day one, the twins appeared to be more "cranky" off the court as well as on the court. They pointed fingers in a lot of different directions throughout the season - at the refs, at opponents, then at coach, then at the media and finally at the fans.
It wasn't just the Morris twins being a problem last year. P.J. Tucker was suspended more than once for breaking team rules. Goran Dragic went public with his frustration over his role, and the front office's lack of inertia to clear the point guard log jam fast enough. Even Isaiah Thomas fueled the fire in the opening months, talking about beating out Goran and Eric in practice on a regular basis and wanting more minutes.
But the Morris twins, as the team's de facto leaders on a team void of veteran leaders, didn't do anything to improve the team's professionalism either.
They have both been charged with two counts of aggravated assault, an encounter that took place between two home games this past January. The next court date scheduled for August 3 in Phoenix, and if ultimately convicted they will likely face NBA suspensions if not jail time as well.
"I think we all recognized last year there was a deficiency of leadership," Lon Babby said this week. "And maybe a deficiency of maturity, and maybe even a deficiency of professionalism at times."
Now the Suns have moved on. Lon Babby politely declined to discuss the Marcus trade, saying Ryan McDonough was the best person to talk to about it. I'm sure Lon is sad that the twin pairing devolved so badly, while McDonough is just simply ready to move on.
Nearly three weeks after the trade occurred, McDonough has still not spoken personally with Markieff Morris, who remains the Suns starting power forward.
"Members of the organization have been in contact with Markieff," McDonough said in a one-on-one interview with Bright Side.
Some time contributor Bryan Gibberman, representing ArizonaSports.com at the presser, caught up with coach Hornacek, who admitted he hadn't spoken to Markieff yet either.
BG: Have you talked with Markieff since everything that's happened this summer?
JH: I've texted him a few times. We might try to go see him this week. We'll be out on the East Coast.
BG: Does he seem like he's doing OK with how everything went about?
JH: Yeah, I'm sure just like anything else, whenever a trade, especially with as close as him and his brother are, there was some hurt feelings for a little bit. It's a case where they're going to do their best wherever they're at. Once you get into the season, and you get with your team, they've played apart before too, they will be fine.
So Markieff is in Philly right now, rather than Phoenix. And he has yet to speak to his GM or his coach one-on-one.
Contrast this to the past three summers, he and Marcus had been nearly daily visitors to the arena for workouts and pickup games and work with the coaching staff.
"I think he's at a reasonable place now," McDonough said of what he's heard via others in the organization. "I don't know if it's a good place or not. I think he's processed all of it, he had time to let the rawness, the emotional part of it wear off."
That still sounds pretty speculative.
I know the off season is busy, especially the first three weeks of July. The coach has spent the entire past two weeks in Las Vegas, attending every summer league game the Suns played through Monday night. The GM has spent day and night trying to piece together a better roster, one that might make the playoffs next year. The Suns signed five different players in the past three weeks, at least four of whom should be in the everyday rotation.
So, maybe there hasn't been a chance to connect. But then again, a phone call only takes a few minutes. We don't know who hasn't called who, or whether Keef just isn't picking up the phone.
But both McDonough and Hornacek sound like they hope Keef will see silver lining.
"I think he realized he'll be the-- most likely be the starting power forward for us," McDonough said. "And play a lot of minutes and have another great opportunity here in Phoenix and play with an improved team."
He described that the Suns have shared their plans with Markieff about how he could fit next to Tyson Chandler. Many have compared Keef's game to that of Lamarcus Aldridge, in that both like to play in the mid-range offensively and would rather be the team's offensive threat than defensive stalwart.
While Keef can score from most anywhere on the court, Chandler provides the hard screen-setting for the guards, rebounding, defensive positioning and the ability to captain the defense.
"We've laid out how that would benefit him," McDonough said. "As you know Dave, Markieff is a very skilled offensive player, he's a good passer for a big, so that's one of the things we wanted. Now we have two of those guys, Tyson Chandler and Alex Len, who do a lot of similar things.
"I think that'll free up Markieff to do his thing. I think that will benefit him. He did great work last year in the mid-post, we went to him some in the low block."
Of course, the Suns want Markieff to continue to improve. Hopefully, he's training hard in Philly building his skills on taking that three-point shot.
"I think the next step for him," McDonough said. "And he started to make strides toward this, is shooting the three ball and expanding his game. I do think he's versatile enough offensively that he will be able to score at all three levels - around the basket, in the mid-range and from three."
For now, though, the Suns and Markieff Morris have a strained relationship. They may text each other, but they don't talk. And they don't work out together like in past off seasons.
But there is hope that when the season rolls around they can, in the immortal words of Pumba, put their behind in the past.
"Members of the organization have been in touch with him," McDonough repeated. "And will continue to reach out to him, and hopefully, keep those lines of communication open."