Man testifies in trial over NBA players assault

PHOENIX (AP) The man accusing NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris of aggravated assault was pressed Tuesday by defense lawyers about his financial motives in the case.

An Arizona grand jury indicted the Morris brothers on felony aggravated assault charges. They are accused of helping three other people beat Erik Hood outside a Phoenix recreation center on Jan. 24, 2015.

Two of the other co-defendants pleaded guilty Sept. 13 to the same charges. The Morris brothers and the final defendant, Gerald Bowman, have pleaded not guilty.

Hood told Phoenix police he was leaving a high school basketball game when he was approached by a friend of the Morris brothers. Hood said the man was speaking to him when he was punched in the back of the head.

Hood tried to run but fell down before five men, including the Morris twins, punched and kicked him repeatedly, authorities said. All five left in a Rolls Royce Phantom, according to police.

Hood, 36, testified he wanted justice for the incident that left him with a broken nose and other injuries.

The Morris brothers have known Hood since they were promising teenage AAU players, but Hood testified they had a falling out in 2011.

Hood testified that his relationship with the brothers became strained because of a misinterpreted text message he sent their mother. He said there was nothing ”improper” happening with him and their mother.

Defense attorney Timothy Eckstein suggested Hood knew he had no chance of having a professional relationship with the players after the 2011 incident, but Hood insisted their relationship was not based on the twins making it to the NBA.

The Morris brothers were drafted back-to-back in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft.

The 6-foot-9 twins became teammates in 2013 when Marcus was traded to the Suns.

Hood stressed in court that he wasn’t looking at any of the defendants differently from each other.

Hood initially identified both Marcus and Markieff Morris as assailants, but testified that he later changed his statement to police to say Markieff did not physically assault him but had been in the vicinity.

Defense attorneys pressed Hood on his knowing about the NBA players’ substantial assets and asked if he was intent on having a claim on at least one of the Morris twins for his financial gain. Hood denied that claim.

Eckstein reviewed text messages Hood sent to multiple people indicating the Morris twins would have to pay him millions in financial damages for the case.

The Morris brothers face the possibility of prison time and discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10-game suspension, if they are found guilty. Marcus was traded to the Boston Celtics in July, and Markieff is now with the Washington Wizards.

The two-week trial also threatens to disrupt the start of their 2017 NBA season, with training camp set to begin for both players on Sept. 26.