Morris saga ends, McDonough hopes it's 'breath of fresh air'

BY foxsports • February 19, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) The Morris saga in Phoenix is over, much to the relief of what's left of the Suns fan base.

The Suns sent the unpopular power forward to the Washington Wizards, minutes before Thursday's trade deadline. Seven months earlier, they shipped his twin brother, Marcus, to the Detroit Pistons.

''I think Markieff will play well in Washington but I think for all parties involved it was time for a fresh start,'' Suns general Manager Ryan McDonough said Friday. ''I think this trade hopefully will bring a breath of fresh air into our organization.''

Even though every NBA front office knew how badly they were trying to get rid of Markieff, the Suns were able to get a protected first-round draft pick from the Wizards, along with Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. They were preparing to waive Blair but have plans to add Humphries to their beleaguered roster.

The biggest prize was the draft pick.

''We feel good about it,'' McDonough said. ''Anytime you're able to acquire a draft pick that has a chance to be late lottery or mid-first round for a player that probably wasn't fitting in as well as he could have, we view that as a positive outcome for the franchise.''

Phoenix drafted Markieff Morris out of Kansas as the 13th selection overall in 2011. Up until this season, he had improved on the court each year, averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 2014-15.

When the Suns dealt Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas at last year's trade deadline, McDonough called Morris and Eric Bledsoe the best players on the team.

Morris' strong season came after the Suns gave the twins $52 million over four years and told them to split it however they wanted. Markieff ended up with $32 million.

There was trouble, brewing though.

Last season, Marcus Morris got into a loud argument and threw a towel at then-coach Jeff Hornacek.

After scoring a career-high 35 points against Cleveland, Markieff refused to talk to reporters. After a 37-point loss to San Antonio, he criticized Suns fans for failing to sufficiently support the team.

And last April, the twins were arrested on two felony counts of aggravated assault in an alleged attack on a man outside a health club. The case is still pending.

The situation worsened after Marcus was traded last offseason. Markieff unleashed a series of tweets saying he wanted out of Phoenix and would not play for the Suns this season.

But he showed up for media day and said he was ready to play hard for the team.

The season went badly.

Morris was suspended two games for throwing a towel at Hornacek and played so poorly that the coach benched him. Interim coach Earl Watson resuscitated Morris' season, making him the No. 1 option on offense and calling him a leader.

Morris had his best stretch of games of the season but those performances were marred when he got into a shoving match with teammate Archie Goodwin in front of the Suns bench.

''In some ways we put him in a tough spot by trading his brother,'' McDonough said. ''Now on the flip side, he didn't handle it very well, obviously.''

Morris left the Suns locker room for the final time on a hoverboard Thursday, telling reporters as he left that he appreciated his time in Phoenix.

He remains popular with his teammates. P.J. Tucker called Morris ''one of my favorite players.''

''He's like a brother to me so I'm happy to see him be happy,'' Tucker said. ''Hey, it didn't work out here but I think he'll do great things in Washington. He was great for the city of Phoenix. He really was. Even in the community, as much as people don't think so, he was a great guy.''

The draft choice the Suns got in the deal is protected if Washington picks first through ninth, and it looks like Phoenix will get the selection, based on current standings.

That would give the Suns three first-round picks and an early second-round choice in the upcoming draft.

It's unlikely the already young Suns would take four rookies into next season's training camp but McDonough said some of the picks could be used in a trade for an established player or to move up in the draft.

The team can use all the help it can get.

Going into Friday night's game, the Suns had lost nine straight and 24 of their last 26.