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Phoenix Suns getting scorched by current and former players on a regular basis

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On the plus side, the Phoenix Suns are good at acquiring players. On the down side, they are good at replacing players too. At the moment, the Suns have only two players left from three seasons ago (Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker) and another three from two seasons ago (Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Eric Bledsoe).

It's expected to have lots of turnover when your team isn't good enough to make the playoffs. But it's quite unexpected for player after player to make derogatory comments about the organization as they leave.

The Suns, for their part, don't seem to care what outgoing players think. They just turn on the charm for the next acquisition.

Sunny days

When the Phoenix Suns signed Tyson Chandler this July, he said one meeting with the Suns was all it took to convince him to move to the Valley for the next four years.

"I walked away from the meeting, I was sold," Chandler said at his press conference. "So there was no point going through the ringer and continuing while players were jockeying. I knew where I wanted to be."

Brandon Knight echoed those same sentiments last week when he was re-introduced after signing on the dotted line this summer.

"Welcomed me with open arms," he said of the reasons why he stayed with the Suns. "Showed how much they wanted me. That's a big reason I wanted to commit so early in the process."

The Suns really know how to close a deal. They identify the guys they want to sign, and ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after together.

Until they don't.

The Suns had the same success a year ago, closing deals on free agents Isaiah Thomas from the Kings and Zoran Dragic from Slovenia despite having very little playing time to offer either of them.

Isaiah Thomas was sold on one visit, and used a lot of the same words a year ago that Brandon Knight used last week.

"I wanted to be wanted," Thomas said last year. "They brought me in and liked me for being me. They want me and I want to be here."

Thomas entered free agency looking for a starting job, but signed with the Suns anyway because he was so wowed by the presentation and the commitment to his future.

Likewise, brothers Markieff and Marcus Morris signed four-year extensions a year before their contracts ran out to stay with the Suns for the bulk of their careers. Babby said there are weren't any "no trade" clauses in their contracts (less than a handful of NBA players have actual no-trade clauses), but sold the twins on this being their best shot at staying together for their careers.

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

"It's a dream come true," Markieff said later. "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."

And Goran's brother Zoran Dragic was lured from Slovenia to, in part, demonstrate that the Suns are a family affair in ways never before shown on the NBA court. No NBA team had ever had two sets of brothers on their active roster at the same time.

But less than a year later, four of those five feel-good stories are gone in trades.

Thomas, the Dragic brothers and Marcus Morris, all gone for draft picks (3 firsts and a second), with the fifth (Markieff Morris) dangling in the wind facing an uncertain future.

Blow torches

None of them left on warm terms, despite each being traded into a better playing opportunity. They've each left choice words behind for the Suns, who didn't miss the chance to respond in kind.

Goran Dragic complained publicly about broken promises, forcing a trade at the deadline. He was blocked by Eric Bledsoe at point guard in Phoenix, but is now is the undisputed starting point guard for the playoff-caliber Miami Heat. He said the Suns promised a dual PG role like the year before, but Thomas' presence in the mix made that impossible.

Isaiah Thomas complained about broken promises too, though on a much more PC level. Thomas was told he would play as many minutes as Bledsoe and Dragic, but there was no practical way to make that work. Thomas showed up at Media Day already skeptical, and remained skeptical all season.

Marcus Morris complained about everything and anything BUT the front office, leading to his necessary departure. But once traded, he laid into the Suns in ways almost no NBA player has ever done.

Neither IT nor Marcus were going to get the minutes they wanted in Phoenix, but now have much greater opportunities and/or starting roles on their new teams (Boston and Detroit, respectively).

Only Zoran Dragic went quietly, but did reportedly refuse assignments to the D-League affiliate while riding the Phoenix bench. At the same time, fellow rookies T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, along with second-year player Archie Goodwin, went down to Bakersfield at least three times each.

Zoran thought he'd get some minutes in Phoenix, but those never came close to materializing. Zoran was traded with Goran to Miami, and has now been re-traded and might just be released by Boston to return to a bigger role overseas.

Archie Goodwin, tight with the Morrii, also complained at one point when he was just deluged with competition after competition for his shooting guard job. He lost his cool when the Suns took a flyer on Reggie Bullock mid-season.


"Yeah. I don't trust (the Suns front office) anymore. It's happened too many times, two or three times. They give promises but you know, (shakes head)." -- Dragic, prior to being traded in Feb 2015

"It's not what I expected," Thomas said in December of his role being smaller than he'd been led to believe. It's worth nothing, Thomas never took a blow torch to the Suns any more than saying "I think they panicked a little bit" when they traded him. He later took a stab at Dragic, saying "I wasn't one of those who complained".

"I don't know what they're doing. Honestly, I really don't." -- Archie Goodwin, after the Suns acquired Reggie Bullock. He later said he'd better get a playing chance in 2016-17 or he wasn't going to take it.

"For them to trade me without consent or telling me was like a slap in the face." -- Marcus Morris, after the trade in July.

"Clowns" was his favorite word in a since-deleted twitter rant on July 31.

This is the frustrating part for an outsider. On one hand, you say 'suck it up' to the players because they sound like they are whining. But on the other hand, you have to wonder why the Suns players are so much more public about complaints than players from other teams.

The Suns, for their part, have no problem identifying why they'd move on from players who show discord in public.

"Every move we make is with the goal of getting the Phoenix Suns to a championship level," said McDonough after the trade. "Sometimes players view that as a good thing, I think they usually do, the good ones do. But sometimes players get a little selfish and are more worried about I, me and my then us, our and we."

"The guys that are more worried about other things and their top priority is not winning basketball games," McDonough said to the Boston Globe. "Then we'll get rid of them. We have no problem doing that."

He went on to discuss why the Suns scorched their own earth.

"I think the one thing that we took issue with more than anything else was one of our former players saying we lied to him," McDonough said to the Boston Globe. "We didn't lie to him. Maybe he forgets those comments. Maybe he doesn't, you'd have to ask him but I feel like we've conducted ourselves with honesty, integrity. I feel like this is a place players like to come and want to do well. That was the thing that set us off and led to the comments that may have seemed a bit harsh."

Fresh burns

Markieff Morris complained a lot last year too but, like Mook, at least kept the front office out of it. But since the Morrii got charged with aggravated assault felonies on their off time and managed to anger most every facet of constituents the franchise needs to remain solvent, the Suns front office has been noticeably cool to them.

First, the Suns targeted LaMarcus Aldridge to replace Markieff Morris in the starting lineup. And to make room, they dumped brother Marcus and two other players for next to nothing.

The big sticking point for them was that neither brother was notified, much less consulted, prior to either move. Maybe they felt immune to trades after agreeing to those contract extensions. Maybe they were promised never to be traded.

Now Markieff is giving the Suns the silent treatment, while brother Marcus seems to be trying the Dragic tactic of dissing the Suns' front office enough to force a trade of the better twin.

Stay tuned on that one. It sure worked for the Dragic brothers, didn't it?

My take

The NBA is not a league built on long-term relationships. Players know this. Agents know this. Teams know this.

So you have to wonder why the Suns are being blasted so much by their outgoing players lately? Are the Suns over-promising job security when the contract is signed?

Judging by the Suns' defensive reactions to claims of broken promises, it could be that there's a bit of truth to what these players are saying, even if they are showing immaturity in how they say it.

The Suns are great at the sales pitch, but maybe not so great at keeping up the communication when things don't work out as planned or when something better comes along. And when they feel directly slighted, the Suns front office has shown an inability to turn the other cheek.

The team has responsibility to make the right decisions. As things change, so must the team's priorities. A promise made today doesn't have to be met tomorrow if it hurts the team.

Teams can't be held to their huge sales pitch to get the signing. Everyone gives free agents their best shot, and it's not always realistic. But they CAN be expected to keep open the lines of communication and to let their players know what's happening as it happens. They can be held to making sure the players feel respected, even when a better talent comes along to replace them.

So that leaves us to wonder: are the Suns a scorched earth that players can't wait to leave, or a premiere franchise that players can't wait to join?

Maybe both.

Coming into the summer, Suns fans worried that the Dragic and Thomas antics, just a year after Channing Frye left in an unexpected disconnect, might signal the Suns are a team to avoid.

Then Chandler, Knight and Mirza Teletovic proved otherwise by picking the Suns the first moment they could.

And yet now the traded Marcus Morris is fanning the "clown" flames.

Let's see how this all plays out, but I wouldn't counsel Knight, Chandler, Teletovic, Weems or Price to sell off all their assets and buy the biggest house they can find in Phoenix.