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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Phoenix Suns - Decision to fire Jeff Honacek, keep Markieff Morris

The media is abuzz with question why Phoenix has fired Coach Jeff Hornacek and kept allegedly disgruntled Markieff Morris on the team.  How exactly does the organization rationalize these two intertwined decisions?  In my Opinion, this is a no-brainer for anyone who has been a careful observer of the Phoenix Suns Coaching and Players.

Jeff Hornacek could not justify keeping his job during a winless stretch where Markieff Morris was largely relegated to being a role player, coming off the bench.

Regardless of his summer tirade in response to the trade of his brother Marcus Morris to Detroit, Markieff has been a Model of Character if you exclude the alleged towel-throwing incident for which Morris was the model of repentance and insisted that it was an accident..    In contrast, when you read about Blake Griffin punching one of the members of the Clippers staff, there is no mention about trading Blake Griffin.

To gain perspective on the decision to Keep Markieff on the team, you must watch the interaction of the players on the team, Markieff is extremely well-liked by his teammates, and presumably this extends to Markieff's conduct in the locker room.  While Markieff has had some conduct issues in the past, it appears that these may have been largely instigated by his Twin brother.  Markieff is still a talented prospect and a reliable contributor on this team.  With a coach who is willing to put the past in the rear-view and work with him, there is litle doubt that he will again become the player that he once was.  With all of this in mind, it is clear that this young team is actually better with Markieff than without him. Furthermore, Morris' contract is very kind in terms of the salary cap for a team that has massively over-paid two  point guards who the team is unable to keep on the court due to health reasons.  I haven't looked carefully at his effectiveness stats, but it appears from watching him play that he makes his teammates better whenever he is on the floor.  Sure he gets more personal fouls than Jeff Hornacek found acceptable, but his technical fouls are way down from last year, which is surprising in a year when the team is substantially struggling, and also considering that he was benched for several weeks.

In short, it is impossible to imagine this team proceeding without Markieff Morris.  He has clearly bonded with and is looked up to by the Suns emerging star, Devin Booker,  and the team would be disrupting young Booker's development should they trade his friend and mentor.  If you don't believe me, watch the two of them during warm-ups.  They are nearly inseparable.  The team has even tried to showcase the relationship between Devin Booker and Tyson Chandler with a media campaign -- perhaps to downplay the more influencial relationship between booker and Morris.  The team can hype the relationship between the elder statesman and the Rookie as much as they like, but It's clear that Devin Booker is blooming under the mentorship of Markieff Morris far greater than the experience of Tyson Chandler.

I disagree with Sports 98.7's Dave Burns when he says, "Jeff Hornacek deserved a chance to coach a team that did not have a Morris twin on it.."  In the final analysis, any astute basketball insider would have to agree that, with the dearth of talent that this team has, it is a team that ultimately is better with Markieff on the roster than not.Without him, they would be arguably worse.

To continue this story, shortly after I first published this blog-post, it was announced by Yahoo Sports' "The Vertical" that TJ Warren is out for the season with a broken foot.  Immediately I realized the wisdom of the Suns keeping Markieff and recognized that his stock to remain on this  team keeps going up every day.  Despite that, sources within the Phoenix Suns suggest that perhaps Markieff will be gone by the trade deadline.  I remain unconvinced as sources within the Suns organization had made similar comments that he would be gone before the start of the Season.  Since Markieff broke out for 30 points against the Raptors on Tuesday night, it seems like Markieff is not going anywhere unless the Suns are given an incredible offer -- perhaps a straight-up swap for another alleged problem-child, Blake Griffin?

Bottom line: every game that he suits up for this year's Phoenix Suns, he is one of the 2 best players on the roster regardless of whether he's starting or coming off the bench.

1/30/2017 Update:  Phoenix Suns: 15 Wins - 32 Losses; Jeff Hornacek's NY Knicks: 21 Wins - 28 Losses - would lead one to conclude that Jeff Hornacek is the superior coach.  Furthermore, the subsequent trade of Markieff Morris to the Wizards was another questionable decision; regardless of whether that was what he wanted.

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