Season’s greetings, Bright Side! It’s that time of year again when someone on staff pens a holiday piece involving the Phoenix Suns that straddles the line between creativity and plagiarism.
Since 2008, Bright Side of the Sun has been putting out Christmas-related articles to get out of writing over the holiday. If you are so inclined, here are the links to past installments:
This year, Santa was extra generous and brought you two Christmas articles, with The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry getting the Bright Side treatment this morning. Enjoy!
“Nine wins and twenty-one losses.” Ryan McDonough could hardly believe the numbers as they tumbled past his lips.
The window in his office looked out upon Jefferson Street and the electric cheer of shimmering lights that adorned shop front and high rise alike, but he had no inclination to gaze out at them in wonder, not when the analytics glowing back at him from his computer screen offered little cause for merriment. “Nine wins.” He shook his head in equal parts disbelief and disgust before switching off his computer.
Ryan stood from his desk and stretched his back, weary from another long evening of rectifying what-ifs with hard truths. He was ready to return home and leave his office behind and, with it, all the misery it had wrought over the last year…at least for a couple of days. His family was already in town, and he eagerly anticipated spending the Christmas holiday in their company, for while the time spent with his loved ones would produce a negligible effect on his blood pressure, they at least weren’t, in the way his basketball family was, herding him toward the same career exit Lance Blanks took approaching four years ago.
He pushed in his leather executive chair and rounded his desk, heading for the door, when an envelope sticking out from beneath a stack of scouting reports caught his eye. With the ubiquity of e-mail and Twitter and Snapchat and Facebook and any other fly-by-night technology that promises ever-increasing levels of connectivity to others (whether desired or not), spotting what appeared to be a letter brought with it a similar shock to what must be experienced by an Old Order Mennonite finding himself snarled in Los Angeles traffic.
Remembering no letter that belonged on his desk and certain he had already sifted through his office mail, Ryan pulled it from the stack to examine. The envelope, which remained sealed and in good order save for a few scuffs and rounded corners, did not immediately return any memory to his mind, nor did the postmark of February 22 jog any lost memories from their hiding. When his eyes scanned the return address, though, that was enough to shift the envelope from mere curiosity to newfound imperative.
Markieff and Marcus Morris
Neither of those names had crossed his mind much since orchestrating the final trade of Markieff Morris to the Washington Wizards in February 2016, so to now be in possession of a letter addressed to him from the pair of brothers defied all logic, considering the situation and its less-than-amicable conclusion. Ryan tore open the envelope and took up the note it held inside.
Scrawled on pieces of ruled notebook paper was found an explanation of the pair’s actions leading up to their high-profile divorces from the team, penned by Markieff.
* * *
Back in late 2014, my brother and I came to a difficult conclusion. We needed you to trade us.
It wasn’t a decision we made because we wanted to leave, though. No, we loved it in Phoenix. My career began there, and Marcus grew to love it just the same. But there was a problem.
The team was stuck. We weren’t good enough to seriously contend for anything more than the eighth seed in the playoffs but weren’t bad enough to earn a high lottery pick and get help there. And we knew from conversations with other players around the league that no one was all that interested in coming to Phoenix as a free agent. Like I said, the team was stuck, and if things didn’t change, the team would remain stuck for seasons to come.
Marcus and I tried to put the team on our shoulders as the leaders, but as difficult as it is to admit, the load was too much for us to carry. So at some point between Christmas and New Year’s that year, we decided there was only one course of action to take if we hoped to help the Suns — a team we had grown to love — become relevant again. We needed to force you to trade us, no matter how difficult the idea was for us to bear.
Now, we were sure you would not oblige a straightforward trade demand due to the closeness of our bond over the years, so we pursued other ways of forcing a trade. We started out with things like picking up a bunch of technical fouls and Marcus calling foolishness on that fan blog and then upped it with Marcus yelling at Coach on national TV while I blew off the media.
None of that worked. You traded Gogi and IT at the deadline but not us. Worst of all, those trades didn’t make the team any better.
Seeing we needed to work harder to force your hand in the offseason, we decided to call out the team’s fans for not supporting us enough, which hurt me deeply to do because of how much I valued their support.
(There was also that alleged assault thing, but on the advice of our lawyers, we have nothing to say about that.)
By the Draft, we were still in Phoenix and the team was still picking 13th. It looked like our efforts had failed in every way, and we decided to give up the act and dedicate ourselves to improving the team from within. Then we found out Marcus had been traded to Detroit at the beginning of free agency when you were trying to sign LA. Neither of us could believe it.
You remember when I tweeted “Lol this a foul game here man!”? I wasn’t angry. I really couldn’t believe it. After everything we had done to get traded before, the moment we decide to stop is when a trade happens…and sends only one of us away at that! Even though we knew forcing a trade risked splitting us up, we held out hope that you would send us away as a set. But then you went and traded only Marcus and for a cheap 2nd rounder. So yeah, I was laughing because we couldn’t have gotten that more wrong.
Marcus and I talked it over and decided to recommit to the plan. Marcus figured he could still play a role due to our close relationship, so he started blasting the team on Twitter. Remember him calling you a clown? Yeah, it’s kinda funny now.
While Marcus did that, I decided to lie and say publicly that I didn’t want to be in Phoenix anymore. Then when the season started and I still hadn’t been traded, I pouted to convince you that keeping me on the team wasn’t a good idea. I even tried throwing a towel at Coach, remembering how that got Robert Horry traded from here in the past.
I still said all the right things, though, because I wanted to keep my value up around the league. Having you trade both of us for pennies would have been a complete failure to us.
BTW, I know all of that crap I pulled last season cost Coach and them their jobs, and I didn’t mean for that to happen. I assumed I’d be gone long before any of them. I still feel bad about that. So does Marcus.
When you finally traded me to Washington for a 1st round pick, Hump, and DeJuan last week, I was happy. At least something good came of all we gave up. And now that I’m here, I’m going to Steve Nash ’em to make sure that pick stays in the lotto for you.
I never meant for things to get as ugly as they did, and neither did Marcus. We knew what our actions would probably cost us — our relationship with the fans, the team, and even our playing together — but we had to do it to help the team. Now that you’ve got something more to work with, we hope you flip what you got for us into someone who can offer the team immediate help so the fans, our former teammates, and everyone around the team can enjoy the feeling of winning again.
Thank you for everything, Ryan. See you in the Finals! FOE.
* * *
Ryan had reached the end of the letter, but he did not move. His eyes remained fixed towards the sheets of paper he held in his hands but no longer focused on any word in particular. His expression, meanwhile, betrayed nothing about his present state, giving no hint of happiness or anger or relief or sadness or confusion or anything, really, that would so much as distinguish him from a department store mannequin at that moment.
Despite all outward appearances, time continued to tick on as measured by the clock mounted on his office wall. When he did finally break free of his bonds, Ryan walked behind his desk, pulled out the chair, and plopped down into its leathery embrace, staring at the lights outside his window. Imperceptible at first, a smile crept across Ryan’s face as he sat in that chair, thrumming the armrest, letting no one in on the secret behind that smile’s meaning — or the singular half-chuckle that accompanied it into existence.
Ryan spun in the chair back toward his computer and switched it on. Upon booting up, he opened his word processor and, propping the letter nearby, set his fingers busily to work on the keyboard.
Markieff and Marcus Morris:
Please forgive my delay in writing, as I only now received your letter.
I understand completely your hesitancy to ask me outright for a trade. Had you, though, you would have learned that I was already busy seeking trades for the two of you.
As you expressed in your letter to me, I was not pursuing your exits out of a desire to see you two gone. I was doing so out of my respect for you and everything you had given to this team. It was plain to everyone that I had made errors with regard to the roster balance, and to correct those errors, the team would need to take some steps backward. I was afraid that as a consequence, you would spend much of your primes suffering through a rebuild, and I didn’t want that for you.
I actually began seeking out trades with playoff teams at around the same time you describe trying to get me to trade you. I even had one or two (who remembers now?) that would have gotten you both sent to a team near your hometown. However, those deals fell through once the antics started, and the longer they went on, the worse the few offers I managed to drum up got.
By the time we agreed to trade Marcus, only a handful of teams had even a slight interest, and most of those were bad teams looking to dump salaries or pry away picks. Of the interested teams, Detroit promised the best situation but refused to take you both. I spent hours trying to convince them to take you both — even offered to let them dump contracts on our books — but it really was a non-starter for them after everything that had happened that last season.
In hindsight, it was a mistake on my part not to call you both and tell you about the trade, but I couldn’t think of anything to offer that would lessen the sting of finding out you wouldn’t be playing together anymore, especially in light of you signing those contracts in 2014 and what was discussed back then. I knew you would both be hurt, so I felt it was best just to give you space.
Trading Markieff to Washington was similar to the deal with Marcus. The market was pretty depressed, but that strong week in February under Earl helped me salvage more than a 2nd rounder like I got for Marcus.
In truth, I could have gotten a better return had I chosen to accept another offer on the table. However, that would have meant me sending Markieff to a team without playoff aspirations, and I had committed to sending both of you to places where you would enjoy the greatest opportunity for success. I felt I owed that much after breaking the two of you up. And even though we got a 1st rounder out of the deal, I didn’t care much about where it would land. I fully expected Markieff would go to Washington and push that team into the playoffs, which would diminish the pick’s value. You’d think I would have been happy to see the Wizards’ pick land in the lottery, but I actually felt bad to see you miss out on the chance to finally experience playoff basketball, Markieff.
By now you must know what we did with the assets we acquired for you both. I hope you are not too disappointed, but we are very excited about what Marquese Chriss could develop into for the Phoenix Suns organization in a few years. He may not lead to immediate wins as you had hoped for with your departures, but neither of you are playing for winning teams as I had hoped for. It is likely we possess a shared disappointment for the way things have worked out, but it’s as they say: The best laid schemes of mice and men…
I hope you both harbor no ill will over all that transpired. I know I do not after reading your letter. Hopefully things will work out, and in a few years’ time we will be able to enjoy each other’s gift as it was intended.
Ryan hit save, then leaned back in his chair. He considered printing the letter that moment but reasoned it was a task better left for the 26th (and most certainly not for e-mail). Checking the time and remembering his family awaiting his arrival home, he switched his computer off for good this time and left his office behind.
As many know, the magi, blessed with a wisdom that exceeds most men, traveled a great ways to bestow upon the Babe gifts befitting their new King, caring not for the cost nor the trouble therein — and establishing the time-honored custom of giving gifts such as Hatchimals to children in celebration of the Christmas season. Yet here I have chosen to pass along an account of three people who acted most unwisely in sacrificing for the other what they held dear. But in a final nod to the spirit of the magi, let it be known that these gifts bore no foolishness whatsoever. Truly, all who would give a gift in such a manner are eminently removed from foolishness. They are the opposite of foolish. They are the Morrii, er, magi.
It’s fun to dream.