Markieff Morris, others shine behind tutelage of Suns staff

PHOENIX — Player development. It’s an overused few words that teams use to promote publicly that they’d like to promote players up the food chain from within. The new Phoenix Suns front office didn’t follow the Lance Blanks model of hiring an entire player development staff – the new coaching staff that includes former player development coach Mark West is that staff.

So far, it seems to be paying dividends.

Markieff Morris’ play has often made heads shake. But now he’s on a brief but interesting enough streak. Fun fact courtesy of the Suns’ media relations department: Since Morris was born on Sept. 2, 1989, only two other players have gone on a three-game run by shooting at least 75 percent from the floor while taking 12 or more shot attempts in each game. The other two? Dwight Howard in 2008 and Charles Barkley in 1991.

Head coach Jeff Hornacek echoed Morris’ emphasis on using defense to find himself offensively. On Sunday in Phoenix’s 101-94 win against the New Orleans Pelicans, Morris scored 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with five rebounds.

“First two years I couldn’t even play without fouling,” Morris said. “Now I just buckled down, watching a lot more film, became a student of the game and I can see why I was picking up dumb fouls. Basically, it’s just doing your work early. You get your work done early on the defensive end, and the game comes to you.”

Maybe it won’t continue. But certainly credit the Suns’ coaching staff for untapping Morris’ talent. And credit Morris for taking the tips from his coaches and turning it into results.

Assistant coach Kenny Gattison has worked with Morris, telling him to “get two or three moves and master them.”

“That’s how you get more efficient in my position,” Morris said.

Morris’ long two-point chucking used to get the best of him. That he is conscious of his efficiency issues was a good sign maybe he has a bigger future than most realize. But that he’s willing to admit his flaws was a sign he’s willing to change for the better.

And he’s not the only one. Center Miles Plumlee put together another fine game, scoring eight points and grabbing 12 rebounds against the Pelicans while blocking five shots. Playing a year with the Indiana Pacers didn’t hurt either.

Hornacek pointed to the little things his players are doing. The youngest Sun of all, Archie Goodwin, earned 16 minutes and scored six points to go with three blocks. It was the detailed pieces of his game that stood out to the Suns coach.

“He created one play where he really sprinted down the sideline and crossed underneath the basket,” Hornacek said. “We’re asking guys to do that, you know, it’s a hard thing to do because the play ends up not being for you.

“He did that I think it opened up for a trailer three right behind him.”

Player development is in the details. The young Suns, unlike a year ago, are learning about the details and it’s paying off.


Hornacek on the Suns allowing Pelicans center Jason Smith to score 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, most of which were off mid-range set shots: “He was making shots. We were kind of living with those and again it’s focusing on Davis in the pick-and-roll. That may be a guy that hedges at him, we wanted our weakside guys to hedge at him, make him think about it. We didn’t want to get into the full rotation where he’s throwing it out to Eric Gordon or Morrow in the corner for a three.”

  • Scott

    Markieff IS playing very well. And yet I continue to think of trading him, just for a lot more than I used to.

    Is something wrong with me? Maybe I should see a therapist. ;)

  • JK

    The Morrii should not be traded. Two solid bench players on reasonable salaries, not sure if you could really get anything better in return for them.

  • hawki

    @ Scott
    My ex-wife is a therapist….couple of sessions with her & you’ll KNOW there is something wrong with ya :)

  • hawki

    Great seeing VT & Smovas…really Great People.
    Thanks for the beers & laughs….Till we meet again.

  • hawki

    @ SunsN7

    XcasX is on bsots….Ben is searching for a girlfriend & Bucky is in a Mental Institution.

    Congrats to Horny, McD & Staff…you are making us Believers.
    If you look at Suns history, you will see that the Suns have had remarkable turn-arounds after dismal seasons…didn’t think it was possible this year…after last year’s debacle….but maybe…just maybe.


    Keef Mo > Anthony Davis

  • hawki

    @ EBJM….from previous article
    Was going to mention that this team reminds me of the 1975-76 Suns but you beat me to it & did a great of summarizing.
    however, Celts beat us in 6 games… 5 was the triple ot thriller in Boston.
    Celts then won game 6 in Phoenix to clinch the Title.

  • Foreveris2long

    Minnesota is having an excellent run early but they have a lot more established talent. What this coaching staff is doing with a bunch of parolees with two strikes, is incredible. I do not recall ever seeing anything like it. Look, they could fall back to earth and only win 20 games but I would be shocked because this staff is instilling core values that normally stick with a team and help them when adversity hits. Just a great job by an intelligent and hard working coaching staff.

  • Ty-Sun

    Was just on ESPN doing my own ranking of the NBA teams and, when I finished, I noticed that the Suns have actually received the 3rd most #1 votes (behind Indiana and SA) so far. Of course it’s just fan voting but it says to me that this team has excited a lot of fans to the point of unrealistic expectations. :)

    One of the things that I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is that McD, Horny and his staff are well on their way to changing the way that future NBA free agents will look at the Suns. If they can keep this up, big name FAs will at least take it seriously if the Suns come calling with an offer.

  • Ty-Sun

    Oppps! Was looking at the #1 voting scale wrong and the Suns don’t have nearly as many #1 votes as I thought. But they are ranked 9th overall on the poll and 8th overall by Stein in his power rankings.

  • EBJM

    Hawki I knew that, excuse an old man’s brain fart. I guess I was thinking how we all knew the series was over after “the shot Heard around the World”!

    Yeah, Forever, Adelman’s only potential issue is with keeping Pekovic happy. The Montenegrin strong-man had developed into quite the beast but with the arrival of Kevin Martin has seen his shots slashed by a third.

    The irony of Martin jacking up more shots than every teammate other than Kevin Love is the verbal shot he took at Kevin Durant where he said he didn’t like playing with some one more concerned with the scoring title than winning games.

    Now we all know Martin will never make an All-Defensive team so you would think he keep Pekovic happy. Interesting enough is that I had ranked Plumlee right before Pekovic on a list of best centers on projected playoff teams (my list, not the experts).
    1) Howard
    2)M. Gasol
    3) Jordan
    4) Plumlee
    5) Pekovic
    6) Bogut
    7) Splitter
    8) Perkins

    Bubble teams:
    9) Dalembert
    10) Jason smith
    11) Robin Lopez

    The Wolves have less problem scoring than the Suns and are holding their opposition just under 100 points. I don’t think they are as deep as Phoenix though, a rookie back-up for Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng. They are small with Cunningham and Barea backing Love and Rubio.

    On a sad note it was in the Lakers blow-out loss to the Wolves that Nash’s career pretty much came to an end. Ironic isn’t it that Amare and now Nash have had their bodies give up on them after leaving the World renowned Suns training staff?

  • foreveris2long

    EBJM, I think you unintentionally left Hibbert and Brook Lopez off your playoff relevant roster. For what it is worth I place both of these guys in my top 5.

  • EBJM

    Sorry Forever, I was only talking Western Conference.

  • Jeremiah

    Here is a pretty cool video of Hornecek working with Goodwin on his jump shot.

  • HunterSThompson

    That video was cool, Jeremiah! Thanks for the share!

  • Voqar

    Definitely a season full of surprises.

    We got a GM with a clue.

    Hornacek is more than a babysitter for a tank crew.

    Morris can actually play somewhat consistently to his potential.

    If shooters like frye could actually hit with any consistency, if the defense could be consistent for more of the game, and if they could cut down on brutal turnovers, the team might keep this magic rolling.

  • mark

    @Jeremiah that is a good video. Goodwin has a ways to go to get that consistency that Horney (and Green even) has shown. It is obvious that he is drifting in those first few practice shots. He’s jumping and then trying to gather and shoot in mid air at the top of his leap instead of combining the jump and the shot motion at the same time.