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Markieff Morris has a right to feel disrespected, but should be traded anyway

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Just like dozens of other times per season, across the entire league, NBA players are traded without their consent and often without their prior knowledge. It sucks for the player, but that's the way it is in every pro sports league.

Generally, a player finds out from his agent about the trade. Not too often does the trading team's general manager pick up the phone to personally pre-warn the player that something is going to happen, because that GM is generally busy doing other things.

Yet, when you sign a pair of brothers to a below-market deal to keep them together and later decide you don't want that anymore, you should feel a bit of responsibility to explain why you're going to break them up before you actually do it.

Certainly, this is Markieff Morris' opinion of how the Phoenix Suns mishandled his situation this summer.

"If you are going to do something, do it," Markieff Morris said to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday. "The GM, I've been there longer than him, the coaches, everybody. I've been there the longest, and I don't get the respect to be like, 'Yo Keef, we are going to trade your brother. You are our future power forward.' I'm the future power forward. I'm the premier player of the team. ... That's just how business is done I guess."

Markieff's opinion is that since he has been with the Suns longer than GM Ryan McDonough and the entire coaching staff he deserved a heads-up that his brother was about to be traded.

And he's right.

Last September, the Suns gave the Morrii reason to believe they could play together for a long time on the same team, and the Morrii accepted a below-market deal to do so.

Asked at the end of the season if they could be broken up, Markieff was definitive. "I don't think so," he said. "The Suns are a better team with us together."

The deal was a good one for all sides, because every team needs depth at the forward spots and the Morrii had proven to be very good rotation players in the NBA. A win-win.

Even with the Morrii Meltdown last season, the Suns front office could have - should have - done a better job explaining to the twins that their place on the Suns was not solid in the aftermath. The twins should have seen it coming. They should have been pre-warned - either directly, or to their agent - that the off-court and on-court issues of the past season left them on shaky ground.

But Suns GM Ryan McDonough did not do that. They simply went about their business to improve the team and did not take the time to prep the Morris brothers.

"We've reached out to him. I have not personally," McDonough said of touching base with Markieff Morris. "I've been working on other stuff. Training camp starts in 2.5-3 months, so we still have some time."

Even two weeks later, McDonough still had not reached Markieff to discuss next steps during the off season.

Other stuff included replacing Marcus, basically, with Mirza Teletovic to be a purer stretch four coming off the bench for the second unit. Teletovic is a full-time power forward, while Marcus Morris profiles better as a small forward. Teletovic is 20 pounds heavier than Marcus and rebounds better (on a rebound % basis).

"We felt like we had a bit of a logjam," McDonough said to Bright Side of the small forward position before Marcus was traded. "We were worried about acceptance of roles, and how players were going to handle that."

The Suns clearly are establishing a pattern of communication problems with their players. Too many times in the past year they've been accused of being misled or disrespectful and of failing to communicate with players. Channing Frye. Goran Dragic. Isaiah Thomas. And now both Morris brothers.


Markieff goes one step further with his complaint though, and this is where he expected too much from the Suns. He says the heads up should have included a pledge to keep him as the starting power forward.

However, as we all know, the Suns were making room to bring in LaMarcus Aldridge to take Markieff's place in the starting rotation, spelling the end of Markieff's career as the future power forward in Phoenix. There's no way you call Markieff to tell him he's the future, when you're at the same time trying to lure Aldridge.

Markieff also contends in that quote that he is the "premier player" on the team.

Let me just say this: if Markieff Morris is your premier player, you need to upgrade the talent level of your team.

Markieff is a good player, but not a great one (15 points, 6 rebounds per game put him outside the top 20 power forwards in the NBA). He's not an All-Star. Playoff teams have All-Stars on their roster.

Yet Markieff believes the Suns as constructed prior to the February trade deadline were just fine the way they were.

"I can't put my finger on it, honestly," Markieff Morris said of the Suns breaking up the team. "Stuff wasn't that bad. Phoenix is trying to make it seem like people were in there just acting the [freak] up. [heck] no. We had everything under control."

Uh, wut? The Suns high water mark was 28-20, though they entered the All-Star break 29-25. They had a disgruntled three-point guard lineup. They were about to enter a much tougher portion of their schedule, yet had shown signs of cracking under the pressure of winning. Bright Side comment threads during December and January were hot fire, and that's putting it mildly. While they were a winning team, they weren't meshing well on the court and weren't getting most out of their talent.

"[The Suns] were trying to make it seem players weren't getting along, we had a great time. When Goran was there, too. Even though Goran wasn't happy, we still had a great time. A lot of team chemistry we had all of that."

Did the players get along with each other? Sure. That's Markieff's area a lot more than mine, so we can stipulate to his claims. In particular, it appeared the Morrii, Isaiah Thomas, Archie Goodwin, P.J. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe were tight. The entire team got along well, despite frustrations by some over playing time.

"You don't do people like that," Marcus Morris said to Pompey. "The voices we brought to the locker room and how we kept the guys together. We were a passion of that team."

The voices in the locker room. The passion. The voices I remember were arguing with refs, with coaches, with media and calling out the fans for being the worst in the NBA. Those were the voices.

Marcus berating the coach during a live game. The coach benching players for getting too many technical fouls for arguing with refs, often after the call WENT THEIR WAY. Players still getting techs anyway, and then telling the media the techs had nothing to do with their losses. The players banding together and finally convincing the coach they couldn't be held accountable to stop getting techs, and forcing the coach's hand to lift the benching rule.

All this BEFORE the trades. That's a great locker room? Great chemistry?

From the players' perspective, from the Morrii perspective, sure. I guess.

But in my book, good chemistry does not mean "us against the world". Often, it felt like the cohesion of the team was at the expense of everyone outside the players themselves. Us against the world works when the world is really against you. Us against the world works when you've got some self-awareness to clean up your own mess before blaming someone else.

As the season ended, even the Morrii admitted they needed more leadership in the locker room.

"Veteran leadership for sure," Markieff said on the final day of the season of the Suns offseason needs. "We need more veterans to keep this thing intact."

In short, the Morrii's recollection of last season differs from that of the Suns.

And the Suns decided a locker room led by the Morrii's influence was not a locker room they wanted to bring back.

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