More technical difficulties for Suns in loss to Clippers
PHOENIX — The Suns are hi-tech this season, but their coach is old school.
He and the organization have had enough with the technical fouls.
"These guys have enough technical fouls as it is," coach Jeff Hornacek said after Sunday’s 120-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers that included Markieff Morris’ 10th technical foul of the season, "and I’ll take the blame for the loss for not playing him … there."
With Hornacek’s recent embargo on Ts, Suns players — who now lead the NBA with 50 technical fouls — sit for the rest of the game if they’re rung up for improper discourse with a referee. Goran Dragic had the dishonor against the Houston Rockets on Friday, and Morris was a goner after complaining at 10:23 of the third against the Clips.
Disturbing irony accompanies this incident, because Morris had just been awarded two free throws after he was fouled by L.A.’s Matt Barnes. Although it appeared Morris was engaged in dialogue with Barnes before Hornacek retired him for the evening, he also went crusty with the referee.
"I’m not going to get into it," Hornacek said in regard to going verbatim with Morris’ oration, "but I talked to the ref and he said it wasn’t just that (interacting with Barnes).
The Suns (26-20) were down by only a point when Morris was sanctioned and fell behind by double digits before the third period ended. But another rally ensued.
A deep 3-pointer from Gerald Green made it 96-94 L.A. with 7:30 to play, but Phoenix was outscored 24-6 the rest of the way.
Any loss in the nasty Western Conference can be crippling for a team sitting as the eighth seed with the Oklahoma City Thunder huffing and puffing as the tenth seed, but the Suns didn’t lose any ground to OKC (which lost in Cleveland) while absorbing their second defeat in a row.
But the coach isn’t worried about short-term issues.
"It’s driving us all crazy with the technicals," Hornacek said. "We’re going to get it straight, whether they (players) like it or not. We’re not just in this for this year; this is for the next few years. We’re trying to be a team that in a couple years can try to win a championship and until we show these referees that we’re not going to argue, we’re going to continue to do this.
"It’s aggravating. We’re arguing on calls that we even get."
In a small triumph for everyone involved, Morris talked to reporters after the game but didn’t register any complaints about Hornacek’s method of cleaning up the team’s on-court conduct.
"I really don’t want to talk about it," Morris said. "I want to talk about our team and how we played tonight. I don’t want to make this about me."
Speaking of performance issues, Dragic returned from his Friday-night exile (he had two points to his name at that point), to miss 8 of 11 shots against the Clippers. The Dragon contributed eight assists and five rebounds but needs to find a rhythm for the Suns to take a big swing at their deadly procession of upcoming opponents.
Two days removed from being benched for his technical, Dragic was in full support of his coach and organization.
"I think that’s a good thing, because before he (Hornacek) tried to talk to us," Dragic said, "and we had a couple of meetings and we didn’t listen to him.
"Then the front office said that if you get a technical, you’re not going to play anymore and I think that’s right, because if you want to be a playoff team or we’re playing for the playoffs … we lost a couple of games because of technical and we cannot afford to do that anymore."
What really resonates is the need to return to an attitude that fueled last season’s unexpected fire.
"It’s overall," the coach said when asked if early on-court decorum is stressed to produce favorable late-game calls. "Early game, late game … it doesn’t matter.
"That’s why we’re trying to break that … that thing and show these referees … we had four games in that stretch before that and then they went technical crazy and had three or four more again. So, you know, something’s going to have to be done. Either we don’t play ’em, continue to sit ’em like this or we get new guys in here that want to win a championship. I don’t believe that when you’re yelling at the referees all the time … you got no shot. We’ll figure it out."