Markieff Morris receives NBA introduction at Phoenix Suns mini-camp

PHOENIX — With the lockout expected to wipe out all communication between players and coaches for quite some time starting Friday, the Suns took advantage of the hours remaining before July 1 by staging a two-day mini-camp for Markieff Morris and various undrafted rookies and journeymen.

Although head coach Alvin Gentry said it was good to get another look at these free agents — after all, some could be candidates for training camp or Summer League invitations down the road — the obvious benefit came from being able to coach Morris for a few days.

The Kansas product’s schedule has been hectic the last few weeks, with Gentry estimating he may have traveled over 25,000 miles jetting around the country for workouts, then traveling to New York for the draft and Phoenix for a press conference before going back home and then back to Phoenix for the mini-camp.

Gentry lauded Morris for being “a big-time competitor” who understands the game after just the two days of working with him.

“I’m ecstatic,” Gentry said of Morris. “You can see the skill level that he has and you can see the desire that he has to be good, and as I said he’s a real cerebral player and real smart player so I see nothing but good things for him because I think he’s a hard-working kid and he wants to be really good, and to me that’s three-fourths of the battle.”

At the same time Gentry cautioned not to expect Markieff to ride in on a white horse as the savior of the franchise, although in time with development he should turn into “a very, very good piece” for the Suns as he improves his strength and gets used to competing against the bigger, stronger and quicker big men that define the NBA.

“He’s going to be a really good player,” Gentry said.

The Suns better hopes he’s as hard of a worker as Gentry thinks he is because the lockout will be tougher on rookies than established veterans who generally know what they need to do to prepare for the season (not that they necessarily did it last time players were locked out).

Players often work out together, but you know for a fact that Markieff will be pushed daily by a fairly similar player in his twin Marcus.

If the lockout is lengthy and training camp abbreviated the Suns’ coaching staff may not have as much time to focus on Markieff as they would like, so that’s why this mini-camp and what Morris can take from it into the summer was so important.

A Dream for Gortat and Siler

When Gentry sat down with Marcin Gortat during his exit interview he lauded him for how well he played before expressing that he absolutely needs to develop some more post-up moves so he can create double teams or pound single coverage.

That was not the case last season as according to Synergy Sports Technology, Gortat posted up on just 14.3 percent of his plays compared to 38.8 percent as a roll man. He scored a mere 0.77 points per play and converted 39.4 percent of the time in post-up situations compared to 1.23 ppp as a roll man when he converted 63.7 percent of the time.

Clearly Gortat thrived in the pick-and-roll game with Nash but never consistently generated offense from the low block.

So the Suns sent Gortat and Garret Siler to Houston to learn from one of the greatest post players of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon, during five days of intensive training that often lasted at least three hours a day. The Suns’ centers learned Dream’s workouts and were free to pick his brain with questions.

“They thought that Hakeem is an unbelievable teacher,” Gentry said. “They felt like they learned a lot down there … so nothing but positives really. They feel like it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to them in basketball.

“It’s just a real positive thing I think.”

It would be unfair to think Gortat will all of a sudden pick up the Dream Shake from his week in Houston but this week should give Marcin plenty of moves to practice all summer.

This also shows the Suns’ belief in Siler, who does not even have a guaranteed contract for 2011-12 at this time. But they wouldn’t send him to Houston if they didn’t believe he had a future with the team.

Howard, Williams make impression at mini-camp

When Gentry was asked about guys who stood out at the mini-camp, he immediately named a player every college basketball fan is plenty familiar with.

“I think Matt Howard is just one of those smart, smart players that I think eventually somewhere along the line he will probably find his way into the league,” Gentry said of the former Butler star who hit game-winning buckets in the first two rounds of this past NCAA Tournament and led the Bulldogs to consecutive national title games.

“He’s just so smart about what he does and he’s a good shooter and a real cerebral player, so I thought he stood out some.

“Then there’s other guys that you just don’t know. They’re close. It’ll be one of those things where they’ll spend a year or so in the D-League or playing overseas and you’ll see how they progress and what happens there.”

The Suns clearly have some semblance of interest in Howard having invited him to pre- and post-draft workouts, so as I wrote yesterday I would love to see Phoenix give Howard a chance to lock down a final roster spot.

The athletic shot blocker Sean Williams also bears watching, as Paul Coro writes.

Williams, a former first-round pick by the Nets in 2007, has gotten into a whole mess of legal trouble in the past that he attributes to immaturity.

This past season he impressed for the D-League’s Texas Legends, going for 14.4 points, 9.4 boards and 2.9 blocks a game for Nancy Lieberman’s squad.

“I think athletically he’s really good,” Gentry said. “He played for Nancy Lieberman, and Nancy has been a friend of mine for probably 35 years. She speaks highly of him. I think he’s real athletic and does some good things as far as shot blocking and things like that.

“She said he was easy for her to coach. That’s all I could judge it by, and he seems to be working hard out here and seems to be focused on what he’s trying to do as far as getting back in the league.”

Williams has always possessed NBA athleticism, so if he really has matured at the age of 24 his upside could be worth taking a chance on.

Defensive coordinator to be hired soon

Although Gentry originally wanted to have a defensive coordinator in place by the lockout, at this point he expects that hire to be made by the middle of next week.

That’s obviously far from ideal since the new coach won’t be able to familiarize players with his schemes for quite some time if the lockout lasts for months.

According to Coro the top candidates include former Rockets assistant Elston Turner, Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, Spurs assistant Don Newman and Bulls scout Pete Myers.

Tags: Alvin Gentry Garret Siler Marcin Gortat Markieff Morris Matt Howard Sean Williams

  • Joe

    The Suns should think about making an offer to Daequan Cook. Sadly, since J-Rich left we don’t have anyone who can create their own shot aside from steve. Please for the love of God don’t bring Vince Carter back. Please Please Please!!!

  • luis

    they should sign jeff green and nick young dat whey dey can have a good lineup
    pg. nash, goran
    sg young, dudley childress
    sf green hill, childress
    pf frye, morris
    c gortat lopez
    they should trade warrick and brooks to da lakers for a couples of picks

  • Mel.


    1. Suns don’t have enough cap space to meet the likely signing figures for either of those guys, even after shedding Vince’s contract (KNOCK ON WOOD).

    2. Goran… hasn’t been on the team since Spring. Zabian Dowdell is Nash’s current backup, assuming that Brooks leaves. Seriously?

    3. The Lakers haven’t had a desirable-range pick since freakin’ 1998. We don’t have the rights to trade Brooks yet… and in order to get him, we had to give up a pick. So we’d basically somehow re-sign a guy who’s going to command a decent sticker price post-lockout for the 28th pick of 2012 draft, and lose the team’s prospective backup PG in the process.

    3A. The only trade that makes sense for Warrick is a straight, flat-rate swap for one of the Lakers’ stiffs. Barnes or Walton? Sweet god, no. Those guys are a bag over LA’s head, and they can keep them.

    3B. I’m also not sure why I gave this post the kind of clinical response that Steve and KJL specialize in… aside from the fact that it’s a slow afternoon.

  • jeremy totel

    Great article as usual.
    Questions, any idea why Lopez was not with Gortat and Siler at The Dreams camp?
    For having such a bad year, i would think he would be one of the top people to send to a camp like that and could use the work.
    I know its very possible he could be traded, but unless its something useful, we should not give up so quickly on another first round pick. Its getting frustrating wasting those picks.

  • auggie5000

    If we can package him (Lopez) for Monta Ellis that would be an excellent move.

  • luis

    MEL i know goran is not withda team but he is a free agent so they can sign him
    dey should also sign earlclark he has great potential and canplay multiple positions like sf n pf

  • Mel.

    “MEL i know goran is not withda team but he is a free agent so they can sign him”

    No he isn’t. The Rockets picked up his option last week.

    “dey should also sign earlclark he has great potential and canplay multiple positions like sf n pf”

    Okay, never mind. I got fished in. Ha-ha. Very funny, Schwartzy, or Rich, or whoever it is who’s yanking my chain behind this SN.

  • Michael Schwartz

    @ Jeremy That’s a great question, and one I wish I would have asked Gentry yesterday. Seems so obvious to ask in hindsight. It would be easy to assume that it means they consider Siler a bigger part of their future than Lopez, but it also very well could be a scheduling conflict or something like that to give him/them the benefit of the doubt. In any case, definitely seems fishy to send the starting and third-string center but not the backup former first-round pick, and considering he is on the trade block the obvious conclusion may very well be the accurate conclusion. And I’m with you, they shouldn’t give him away for nothing, only for a good deal if one should present itself.

    @ Mel Not me!! As much as I do miss EC and wouldn’t mind seeing him back here in theory….

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Sorry, Mel. It’s not me either.

    And… I’m going to walk around those bear traps masked as posts.

    What I would like to know, however, is the ‘tutor’ status of the Dream. Meaning, is he obligated to any team in the league via contract or does his schedule keep him busy.

    If neither of those situations are true, then if I’m PHX, I might actually try and hire him to mentor Gortat for at least a full NBA year.

    Meaning now, pre-season, season, end of season, and back to this point next year.

    THORTAT!?!? (And his POLIS – ok.) isn’t as nimble as dream but I think that he is going to have to be that sort of guy on the block.
    Not a lower-my-shoulder-and-dunk-it-on-your-entire-family type of guy, but more like how Dream operated in the post.

    Either that or hire somebody that knows coaching, knew how Dream operated, and take what Gortat learned and continue to build on it all year.

    Siler… He should be on a disgustingly vicious conditioning program with the goal of JMZ’ing his body. If he did that he could easily eclipse RoLo.

    And yeah, the Rockets held onto Dragon, so there will be no Game of Thrones in the valley, /sniff. More shocking to me was Portland giving nearly 9 million in a qualifying offer to Oden!

  • Mel.

    “More shocking to me was Portland giving nearly 9 million in a qualifying offer to Oden!”

    I KNOOOOOW. Made roughly twenty-four-billion times more jaw-droppingly absurd due to the fact that they did so on the eve of the friggin’ lockout!

    “We need contraction, fiscal responsibility, and players willing to tighten their belts… on every team other than this one.”

  • jake

    the suns should jst go and start from scratch they should traid everyone except gortat and dudley da rest are tradeable including nash
    they should try to get picks for next year draft and try to get players like sullinger or da pf from baylor and also a pg like da incoming freshman from texas since he has a lot ofpotential and they should also try for harrison barnes if they can trade players for picks dat wouldb great and dey can build around them

  • Steve

    The bear trap isn’t mine either.

    Having The Dream here would be… a dream come true (sorry, I couldn’t avoid it). If I could watch one player in history through his prime other than Jordan (I mean in person every night as a season ticket holder) I would want it to be Hakeem. His game was gorgeous. If he’s half as good of a coach as he was a player, gortat would be all NBA next season. I know it’s not gonna happen, but it would be amazing.

  • ronald

    i agree with jake that would be the best and most logical move the organization can make and they would contend in 2-4 years and they be one of the top teams

  • luis

    i also agree wit jake and ronald

  • frank

    I disagree with jake, ronald, and luis.

  • jim

    I agree with frank that I disagree with frank, ronald, and luis.

  • luke

    I agree with the article, but I disagree that Hakeem is The Dream. He sucks. Can anyone say “overrated?”

  • michael (not scwhartz)

    I think everyone is wrong except the guy who said we should get rid of everyone except Gortat and Dudley. Let’s be the first team to play 2 on 5 for an 82-game season.

  • luis

    hey micheal (not scwhartz) are u some kind of retart cuz by get rid of them is by making trades for picks andthen we can sign some free agenst to daminimum

  • VA Sunsfan

    I strongly disagree with anyone who uses the words(??) “Da” and “wit” in their assessment of the roster.