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Even without a trade, Phoenix Suns could lose Markieff Morris to suspension for an extended time

Unless the Morris twins get the charges dropped entirely, any kind of conviction or plea would likely result in a long NBA suspension.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Silly as the trade demand is, the Phoenix Suns front office likely does not want a repeat of last season's chemistry meltdown and keeping Markieff Morris around against his will could cause just such a reaction. No matter what they say in public, you can bet the Suns would prefer to trade Morris if a reasonable return is available.

But even if they don't trade him, the Suns might not even have Markieff Morris for a significant portion of the season anyway.

As you know, Morris and his brother each face multiple counts of felony aggravated assault. A trial is set to start in less than three weeks - two days after training camps open - unless Morris' attorneys magically find a way to get the charges dropped after all this time. A judge will rule next Wednesday on their request to reconvene the grand jury that brought charges in the first place, but if the evidence against the Morrii were iffy it seems a plea bargain or dropped charges would have happened by now. Why wait to do all this until the beginning of the season is in jeopardy?

It's really important to the Morris twins that charges be dropped entirely.

Otherwise, even a plea bargain down to misdemeanor assault could significantly impact their 2015-16 season if not much longer thanks to a league suspension.

Training camp / trial

First of all, if a trial actually happens it's scheduled to start on September 30. That's two days after Media Day and halfway through training camp. The timing kills any chance the Suns have to integrate Markieff into an all-new playing rotation that includes Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight, with Mirza Teletovic being his backup, until well into preseason.

If the trial goes on as planned, don't be surprised to hear the Suns suggest he just stay away from the team until the trial is over, which means he'd miss Media Day and training camp. Otherwise, it's a circus.

Felony conviction = prison time

This would be the worst case scenario for the Morris twins, the Suns and the Pistons (Marcus' new employer). The presumptive sentence for felony aggravated assault conviction is more than three years in prison.

Trial is set to begin on September 30, but the next important is Wednesday. There's a pretrial conference on September 16 where the judge will rule on a request for a new grand jury. If the judge rules against a new grand jury, they will be on trial for what might signal the end of their careers. To spend their prime athletic years in prison would be a death sentence to their NBA futures, not to mention their adult lives.

Even when they get out of prison, the NBA would have the authority to impose its own ban of the Morrii. Precedent has been set in many cases over the years. We all watched Ron Artest and his teammates assault fans in the Malice in the Palace. They got suspended for the rest of the season.

Rumor had it Ron Artest didn't even consider the thought of suspension after the Malice ended. I imagine the Morrii are telling themselves the same thing.

Plea bargain = likely suspension

Plea bargains happen all the time. Prosecutors are encouraged not to spend taxpayer dollars on iffy cases that could be lost due to insufficient evidence. If there's any wiggle room, the prosecutor might entertain a plea bargain that does not involve any jail time for the Morrii in exchange for guilty plea to a misdemeanor assault, a lengthy probation period and community service.

But at that point, the NBA will almost certainly step in. Most recently, Jeffrey Taylor pled guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2014 for domestic assault and was immediately met with a 24-game suspension from the NBA by current commissioner Adam Silver. Taylor's contract was later not renewed by the Hornets and he now plays overseas.

The CBA does not allow for suspensions to exceed 10 games unless a felony is involved, but Silver imposed the 24-game ban anyway. According to the link, the NBAPA would likely have appealed the suspension on Taylor's behalf, but Taylor refused to appeal.

A misdemeanor conviction of the Morrii, via plea bargain, would almost certainly be followed by a significant suspension, which will eat into the 2015-16 season.

Charges dropped = best case

The only way the Morrii can avoid a major hit to the 2015-16 season, if not much longer than that, is to get the charges entirely dropped.

The assault allegedly happened nearly eight months ago, with a large number of witnesses and a great deal of phyiscal evidence in the aftermath. Witnesses have placed the Morrii at the scene (it's really hard to miss a pair of 6'9" 240 lb twins at a high school-age basketball game), and reported a Rolls Royce Phantom driving away with a number of passengers including the Morrii.

However, not many of the witnesses have positively identified either of the Morris twins actually inflicting assault on the victim. In fact, the only ones on record to say the Morrii inflicted harm are the victim and his girlfriend. It's the believability of the witnesses that will tilt the case.

At this point, their only hopes of getting these charges dropped would be via a reconvened grand jury or a trial jury sometime in the next month, and that jury deciding there's insufficient evidence.

If charges are dropped completely, absolving the Morrii of any and all crimes, then the NBA will not likely impose any suspensions and the Morrii can go about their careers.

But this option seems more and more unlikely as time passes.

It's no wonder the Suns didn't want BOTH of the Morrii being lost to prison time and/or suspension while wearing purple and orange.

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