His face was stoic. His body language uncomfortable. But if you strip away the tone and visual cues, what Markieff Morris said at Phoenix Suns Media Day was exactly what needed to be said to move this team forward in a positive direction.
"I really want to look forward to this up and coming season," Markieff Morris said. "I'm glad to be back with my teammates, and glad to be back with the team."
This was the first of many steps that Morris will have to take to get back into the fans' good graces. Don't expect him to be effusive. Don't expect a ton of smiles.
He won't lead the post-game interview brigade. But he won't have to, either. With the articulate Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler, all-smiles Eric Bledsoe, emotional P.J. Tucker and even the highly engaging Mirza Teletovic on hand, Keef won't have to lead the locker room media sessions. Heck, when Devin Booker or Ronnie Price get minutes, they're great interviews too.
All the Suns want is Keef.
"I guess people got misled about him as a teammate," Eric Bledsoe said yesterday. "He's a great teammate. He's like my brother."
Morris had not officially been around his team since the end of last season. Even when he returned to the Valley for his September 16 court hearing and stayed around, he spent most of his time at Grand Canyon University's gym. While he hasn't joined in any pickup games, it's clear he spent a bit of time with certain members of the Suns organization.
Coach Hornacek reports that assistant coach Corey Gaines has been in touch with Keef all summer, worked him out a few times and visited him at CGU this past week. That's where the reports that he's in great shape have come from. Other members of the coaching staff, and certainly a teammate or two have been around as well.
Yesterday at Media Day, Keef did the obligatory photo shoots and hung around his teammates in the corner and looked quite comfortable doing so.
"I love playing with him. Everybody loved playing with him," Bledsoe said. "He loved his brother (Marcus). You'd be mad too, you know."
The players and coaches know this isn't about them.
"If you're ever in a locker room with a group of players, guys will give each other crap for about a day and a half, then it's not even thought about again," coach Jeff Hornacek said. "So I don't think there's any problem whatsoever."
"This isn't the first time a player has had miscommunication with management or anything like that," new teammate Tyson Chandler said. "It's not going to be the last time it happens. In our league, it seems to always work itself out and I feel like this won't be any different."
During his short media session, the only thing that lit up Keef's demeanor was talking about Chandler.
"Super-excited," Morris said of playing with Chandler. "I grew up watching him. He's a great player, a great professional. I'm looking forward to starting with him, and getting this season going...I think he's gonna help us out a lot in the locker room, showing us the way."
With Chandler grabbing rebounds and defending the rim, Markieff Morris will have even more time to focus on scoring. The pair of them could be the best thing that ever happened to Markieff's career.
Morris also threw a vote of confidence toward coach Hornacek, something I was glad to hear.
"Super-confident. Me and him have a great relationship," Morris said. "I think he's gonna be here for a few more years."
The Suns have been picked to miss the playoffs yet again, and somehow to finish even worse than last year which was marred with strife and killer losses in the final seconds.
But the players don't buy into that. Even Markieff Morris admits that the team that traded his brother has a chance to be really good.
"I've been on a couple talented teams," he said, probably referring to his college days and the last two Suns teams. "But I think, you know, this probably is our best team with the addition of Tyson and a couple other guys. I think we can definitely make a big step this year."
The Suns will need a fully-engaged Markieff Morris to exceed expectations, and he's ready to do just that.
"I've gotten better every year in the league," he said. "And I'll continue to get better with or without my brother."
When you strip away the deadpan looks, the preconceived notions about his bad intentions, and just look at the words he said yesterday, you can believe he's going to put his past behind him.
Keef Morris has always been a good teammate. And now that the Suns have given the leadership roles to other players more suited to it, Keef can focus on being a player and teammate above all else.
"Ultimate goal is to make the playoffs," he said. "It's not about me, it's about my teammates and the organization. We are just looking forward to a great year and hopefully we can make the playoffs this year."
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If you love watching press conferences and interviews, Evan has posted all of them on our Youtube page. We'll be transcribing them and writing related articles all week, but feel free to watch to your heart's content.