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Phoenix Outlaws come to visit the Suns

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (21-42) host Washington Wizards (37-24)

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

The Phoenix Suns are riding their first three-game winning streak in almost a year and a half, now host two former Suns players with the Washington Wizards looking for another win.

The Wizards are playoff bound. The Suns are not.

But the Suns are playing with pride and the Suns crowds are feeding off it these days.

I dare say that a walk down memory lane might remind us of some dark times that I don’t think will return if the Suns get better again. I think the next playoff-caliber Suns team will have a better home court experience than the last one.

Join me for a walk down memory lane, circa 2014-15.

The Wizards

Markieff Morris, though, wants nothing to do with Phoenix.

"We ain't keeping that name. We're moving on," Morris said. "[Gortat] said it about three times. I ain't rolling with it. I don't want to give Phoenix no credit. We can move on. I'll figure out a better name than that."

Morris went on to joke about how the Wizards' crowd was better than the Suns'.

"When I was in Phoenix, the crowd was horrible," he said.

Remember when Markieff used the in-arena microphone to tell the fans directly how terrible they were during a 24-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs? How it was their fault for the Suns scoring a franchise-low 24 points IN THE ENTIRE FIRST HALF?

Here was Markieff after that incredibly bad loss.

This was 11 days after Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas were traded at the deadline. The Suns were a WINNING team. The Suns had a path to the playoffs.

And Markieff Morris, fresh off signing a 4-year contract extension with his brother, was labeled one of the team’s best players by his coach and General Manager.

Markieff was the future.

Yet in that Spurs loss, got quickly got into foul trouble and saw his team score an embarrassing 24 points in the first half. That’s one point per minute. AS A TEAM.

He chose not to apologize for his team playing terrible. He chose not to take any ownership for the loss.

Instead, we got this:

"They don't boo but they don't cheer that much either," said Markieff, who signed a four-year, $32 million contract extension in October. "We feed off, for the most part, off the energy of each other. I know we're a lot better than that. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. Like I said, we have a lot of genuine fans that cheers for us – the ones that are in the first row, in the second row, in the third row. Once you go up, you feel like people was just at the game, just watching."

Maybe it’s because they were “just watching” a team that didn’t play with any energy, were just going through the motions. Maybe it’s because there was NOTHING TO CHEER FOR.

Read all of Markieff’s comments here.

Coro said that Markieff said a point to say he was speaking for ALL the players, and not just for himself.

Off the record, I know there was a lot of grumbling in that locker room about the fans and their lack of support. The Morris brothers were often at the center of it. In the few minutes media would get access to the locker room, as we waited for players to dress and prep for interviews, they would talk amongst themselves and often NOT in their quiet voice. There was a lot of yelling across the room, complaining about fans. Things reporters can’t miss.

There’s a lot of truth in what Markieff said.

I commented in this blog many times how quiet the fans would be during runs and how many “road” fans would show up against the biggest teams. I do get it.

But Markieff’s incessant worry about the loudness of fans and his choice of times to share that frustration was just awful.

And remember, this was when the Morris brothers were on top of the world, as the key leaders on a playoff-caliber Suns team, with a front office that not only committed to them financially but also made sure the team roster was focused on their success.

And this is what the fans got. They got a petulant child pointing fingers at someone else for being terrible when he’s needed most.

That night, one of the team’s two best players for the future: 5 fouls in 17 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing 2 rebounds.

(Side note: many fans think Morris is playing great for the Wizards, but if you look at his per-36 his numbers are equal or down to any year he was with the Suns. He’s just surrounded by good talent and playing in a lesser conference like his brother.)

Tonight’s game

Tonight, the crowd will likely prove Markieff right. They will likely lightly boo him at intros, maybe boo a play or two in the first quarter, and then for the rest of the game forget that he’s on the other team and called them a lot of not-so-nice things.

The Wizards are in 3rd place in the East at 37-24, driving toward home court advantage in the playoffs. Good for them, and good for Markieff and Marcin Gortat.

The Suns are now 13-9 against the Eastern Conference, including a win over Boston on Sunday and other wins over playoff-bound Pistons, Pacers, Raptors (2), Hawks and Bulls.

I don’t know what Suns team we will see tonight.

But what I do know is that these Suns are embracing the community, embracing the fans, loving every moment of being in the NBA, and are getting cheered more these days as a terrible team than those playoff-pushing Suns of a couple years ago.

“These guys in the locker room really care about each other,” Suns coach Watson said last weekend. “They care about their jersey and they care about the program, past, present and trying to change something for the future. They really believe that, they are genuine when they say that.”

He said his coaching staff takes on the challenge of helping shape these young guys’ future.

“You can help build an identity,” he said. “You’re not changing a past identity. It’s all brand new. And they’re buying in.”

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