PHOENIX — Stereotyping is a very easy thing to do on a basketball court; the big guys are usually the strong rebounders and poor passers, while it’s vice versa for the smaller guys.
Dishing out assists is typically a small man thing.
Suns power forward Markieff Morris has bucked the stereotype of late, dishing out 19 assists in his past four games. That total is the highest of his career through any four-game stretch and includes two career-high games of seven assists. This recent stretch has moved Morris into the top-20 in assists for forwards in the league. His 2.6 assist per game total is a tick below Tim Duncan and about half an assist below small forward Carmelo Anthony.
The high assist total hasn’t come from nowhere and isn’t too much of a surprise. Morris has always been a good passer, which is why Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has given him more responsibility in the offense.
“He is a good passer,” Hornacek said. “We are putting him in the pick-and-rolls a little bit more where guys can hit him on the roll and he can make a play, which he has been doing.
“Last year, we ranked number one in points per possession when we hit the roller, we just don’t do it very often. Now we are starting to do a little more and Markieff is going to be that guy we depend on to make plays.”
Morris acknowledged that his increased role has helped his passing skill evolve, while giving credit to his teammates for knocking down shots.
“I am being put in a lot more situations where I can make plays for other players on the team,” Morris said. “Guys are doing a great job getting open, and I am just making the pass.”
The older Morris twin has thrived in all facets of his game, which could be due to his increased role in the offense. He has notched two of his three double-doubles this season in his past three games, while scoring in double digits in seven of his past eight.
He has been focusing on being more consistent with his play this season and it has shown on the court of late.
“Just making shots and trying to do a little bit of everything,” Morris said. “I am trying to be an all-around player and get my team involved. We lost the last couple of games and I just need to keep the momentum going into next game.”
Hornacek looks for improved ball movement
Poor ball movement is just one small item on a long grocery list of problems that have hampered the Phoenix Suns (10-8) of late. The Suns have dropped three of their past four games after winning four in a row, including last night’s loss to the Orlando Magic.
The Suns have been very finicky with how well they move the ball on offense. There have been spurts of them showing great ball movement, but other times the cupboard has been bare. In secondary assists, the Suns rank 25th in the league, while only ranking 19th in team assists.
Hornacek’s frustration could also stem from the fact that there are times when scoring is the only thing on a player’s mind.
“If you’ve got to drive, I think sometimes when you have the purpose that you’re trying to score that’s when you get in trouble,” Hornacek said after Sunday’s night game. “All you see is the ground, all you see is your defender.
“But if you drive with the purpose of, ‘hey, I got a big guy on me, if I go by him, somebody else is going to be open.’ You know that. You know that prior to your drive, so you’re going to kick it out.”
Outside of the guards holding on to the ball, there is also the issue of when the Suns do pass the ball around — the passes are sloppy. Where a shooter catches the ball can greatly affect his shot, even if the ball is caught slightly out of where the player’s comfort level is, it can throw off that entire shot.
“It’s ball movement and emphasis when we do kick it out we have to make good passes,” Hornacek said. “I feel at times our guys are trying to make passes and they are just throwing it to the general vicinity of the player, and when they catch it, the ball may be high or low or to the side.
“When you are going to make the pass you want to hit him right in the middle of the chest so the shooter can shoot it like it’s a practice shot.”
Jeff Hornacek when asked if he was considering lineup changes and how the Suns can manufacture energy: “We have looked at things, but it’s not like we are bad at any of the stuff, we just aren’t great at it. As of today, we are keeping the same group in there and we will continue to discuss that stuff.”