Markieff Morris is the do-it-all defender


Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris discusses the coming season at Media Day. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris discusses the coming season at Media Day. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Markieff Morris isn’t going to get by with flash. He won’t draw gasps with plays derived from freakish athleticism nor wow a crowd with an overtly polished skillset.

It’s OK. The Phoenix Suns’ rookie forward wasn’t drafted No. 13 overall to put fannies in the seats. If anything, he’ll put himself in the US Airways Center bandstands if he’s asked.

“I haven’t really figured out a role,” Morris said during Friday’s Media Day. “I’m just here to do anything, man. I’m that guy, put me in the crowd, do anything you need me to do.”

The 6-foot-10, 245 pound forward was drafted to do anything and everything, and do it with a hard-nosed attitude. As part of a reconstruction of sorts for the Phoenix defense, Morris’ role as a rookie won’t rely upon his grasp of the offensive sets so much as his tenacity in the paint.

Even out of Apex Academy in Pennsauken, N.J., Morris was always overshadowed in high school. Rivals ranked him as the 49th best prospect, 20 spots behind twin brother Marcus Morris, the 29th best player in the 2008 high school class.

Whether that was a a symptom of Markieff’s game that was more substance over Marcus’ style remains to be seen.

“I’m a defensive-minded player,” Markieff said, “so definitely (I bring) more defense, rebounding and toughness.”

Leaving the Kansas Jayhawks after his junior season, he remains a bit of a mystery coming out of college. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last year and was considered the lesser professional prospect compared to his twin brother, who worked his way up draft boards with a more offensive-oriented game.

Marcus averaged about four points per game more than Markieff in their junior seasons, and it catered to Marcus’ projected NBA position at small forward. Quietly, Markieff made his game known in the trenches for Kansas head coach Bill Self.

Then, the unexpected happened in the 2011 NBA Draft.

The Suns picked Markieff ahead of Marcus, who was chosen by the Houston Rockets with the next pick at No. 14. To some basketball fans, the Suns’ pick was viewed as a painful recurring joke to those who knew the team’s recent history of taking the lesser-respected of twin brothers.

“Taylor Griffin, Robin Lopez, and Markieff Morris? I think the Suns are confused,” tweeted one hoops fan to Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony.

But the Suns believe they took the twin that fit the niche they needed to fill. In that sense, the Suns won out.

Morris believes the NBA lockout gave him more time to prepare for the NBA season, and now it’s a matter of finding out whether that confidence translates onto the court.

“It’s finally time to play,” Morris said. “It’s exciting, watching these guys growing up and now finally here playing with them is definitely exciting.”

Fellow big man Marcin Gortat said there’s little risk of failure for Morris, even if he’s still learning the Suns’ system on the fly. Though his practices have seen ups and downs, Gortat said he sees Morris’ effort on a daily basis.

“He’s got a lot of talent,” Gortat said. “The most important thing — he wants to work. That’s the crucial thing. He’s a smart kid, he’s coming from a good family.”

And as for becoming the do-it-all man, the rookie is already learning that the role goes beyond the court.

“Before he will become better,” said Gortat, “he will bring a few donuts — Krispy Kreme.”

Tags: Markieff Morris

  • shazam

    is his knee better?

  • Scott

    If Telfair (who, may I remind, is merely a cousin, not a brother) doesn’t pan out, the Suns can try to lure Ben Hansbrough back from Europe.

    It could happen. :)

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    -Shazam

    Schwartz asked Markieff at media day about his knee. Kieff said it was “cool.”

  • Scott

    I hope the Suns are able to work Morris into rotations fairly early in the season.

    Not only is he an ideal PF to pair with Frye or Lopez at C – because Morris rebounds – but he’s also potentially the best player to stand in for Frye should he become injured.

    Furthermore, the more minutes Morris can play at PF, the more likely it is that Warrick becomes available for minutes at SF should there be an injury to a wing.

  • JulesFie

    Uh, Kevin. The Suns dont issue press passes to Schwartz or VOS. We appeciate what you do, but we cant credential the millions of people who play with word press and video phones.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    Yeah, although I’m not sure what it means for a knee injury to be “cool.” Then he added, “I’m 22, man. You can’t hold me down for too long.” He later participated in practice so he seems to be fine.

  • Jonny

    If Morris can play well, i dont see Warrick seeing the court unless there is an injury to one of the bigs or its the 3rd game of the Back to back to back.

  • Zak

    I’m looking forward to see how he performs against Denver this Tuesday. If defense and rebounding really are his focus, I think the Suns picked the right brother this time.

  • http://jtshoopsblog.blogspot.com JT’s Hoops Blog

    I wonder if he will have any minutes. A player like that should be starting. From what I hear about him, he’s certainly a better choice than Channingt Frye. I absolutely hate that waste of space.

  • shazam

    thanks for update on knee kevin and michael..i NEVER would have said this last year…but uhhm here goes..i thought warrick looked good the other night..anyone agree?if not why not?

  • steve

    Why are you here, jt?

    I think warrick has always been a stud offensively, so he’s bound to look good in meaningless scrimages.

  • http://Unaware.com Big daddy

    For real im sick and tired of these people comin in and bashin players on different posts…channing frye arguably best shooting big in the game, unlimited range and if he worked on his post game and toughness, hed be a top tier player.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ Big daddy – as I’ve said before, I’m pretty sure Channing has a mid-range game and some post moves, not a jump hook or a drop-step into a CHANNING SMASH!!! type of post game, but he has that 6-10 foot turn-around game with his back to the basket.

    In our system, though, there is no need for him to go to that basically, because having 2 bigs setting up that low means Nash has no space to work.

    Also, you guys have to ignore the trolls that drop in. Trolls don’t exist and, when ignored, they fade away.

    I actually think that, if Morris, (or even RoLo), can be that post anchor for the second unit or an alternative for the first unit, that Warrick’s production could actually go up.

    If he is allowed to be strictly a slashing force then his role on the team will remain simply because, with the potential of Morris and the reported resurgence of RoLo, they still can’t pick and dive to the basket and our offense will need that for the second unit.

    He’ll also be able to hide on the smaller less dangerous big coming off the bench of our opponent if Morris / RoLo can hold the main threat at the 4 or 5.

    He can also RUN far better than any of our other bigs, so for those 2 new point guards running the bench show, he will be vital on the break.

    Very puzzling, though, because coming out of Syracuse, Warrick had some defensive skills. Normally don’t see players totally void of what they once were defensively, even with injuries.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    I took the wife and kids to the Suns “open to the publice” practice Saturday night, and the Morris kid can really play.

    He got 11 points in 18 minutes. Not only can he rebound, bang people around, he also shows a pretty good offensive game as well.

  • http://jtshoopsblog.blogspot.com JT’s Hoops Blog

    .Steve, Warrick is no “stud” How can a guy that had just played 17 minutes per game be a stud? He was a spot role player–an energy player at best. He has such a slight build that he can’t even post up in the NBA.

  • steve

    Anyone who can go off for 20 in a half against the bulls is a stud on the offensive side of the ball. Fact.

  • shazam

    Lloyd your post gives me more hope than any i have read

  • Scott

    @Rich -

    I think Warrick’s disappearing defense is simply because he’s so slight compared to NBA PFs. He’s only 10 lbs heavier than Childress, and he’s actually 6 lbs lighter than Grant Hill.

    Draft scouts noticed the discrepancy in his frame and projected Hakim to play at SF in the NBA.

    @Lloyd -

    Thanks for the first-hand account of Morris’s play. I’m hoping he works his way into the regular rotation this year.

    I’m in agreement with Jonny that as Morris gets his NBA legs and gains the confidence of the coaches, that he’ll take time from Warrick at PF, and in the best-case scenario, replace Frye enough to free him up for time at C with the 2nd unit.

    While Frye does well scoring off of passes from Nash, he’s also been important for scoring in the 2nd unit. If Price and Brown are your guards, a scheme might be to have Frye pulling the opposing center out of the paint.

  • Scott

    BTW, if Morris is successful enough to get recognition in the arena when he makes a play, I suggest it be called “Morris time” and they play the “oh-ee-oh-ee-oh” clip from Morris Day and the Time. :)

  • shazam

    scott…purple rain ?

  • Scott

    @shazam -

    Yup, from the movie.

    Of course, if Morris gets a cool nickname, maybe something can be made from that.

  • fan in chi-town

    @Big Daddy – channing frye has had his moments, I’ll give you that. But for the most part he’s garbage. He disappeared in the 2010 playoffs and was a key factor in our losses if you think about it. I can also think of other bigs that can shoot just as well if not better than Frye (Okur, Nowitzki, Turkoglu in his prime, Ilgauskas in his prime, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant…….just to name a few). So it’s not like he has a special skillset or anything, and except for his one block per game his defense is suspect, ESPECIALLY for a big.

    All that said, I am a die-hard suns fan, even up here in the windy city where I get constant annoying bulls, bears, and ultra-annoying cubs coverage, and I am hoping for a successful season for our team

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Shazam -

    Morris moves up and down the court like Channing Frye. My son asked me, “Dad who is that?”

  • Pingback: Phoenix Suns must develop deep bench for compact season

  • LakerJuan

    Kobeeeee! Lakers rule ALL!! viva los lakers!!