NBA Rumor: Markieff Morris Trade?

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About two minutes before the Morris deal was reported by The Vertical, Wizards vice president Tommy Sheppard called Wall with the news. Wall had made it known to reporters on Wednesday that he hoped the team would acquire a quality stretch forward to help spread the floor. At the time, he knew the Wizards were interested in Morris and New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson, but he never suggested to the front office that it needed to make a move. “From watching the games, they should be able to see,” Wall told The Vertical.

The Markieff Morris saga in Phoenix is over, much to the relief of what’s left of the Suns fan base. The Suns sent the unpopular power forward to the Washington Wizards, minutes before Thursday’s trade deadline. Seven months earlier, they shipped his twin brother, Marcus, to the Detroit Pistons. “I think Markieff will play well in Washington but I think for all parties involved it was time for a fresh start,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said Friday. “I think this trade hopefully will bring a breath of fresh air into our organization.”

Multiple teams who have made pitches for Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris suggest a first-round pick hasn’t been enough to engage the Suns in trade talks. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has been pursuing a package that includes a younger player and a first-round pick, league executives said. The Suns are motivated to honor Morris’ desire for a trade – and have no intention of bringing him back next season – but teams are starting to think the Suns could hold onto Morris past the Thursday trade deadline without a deal that brings back a player of value with a first-round pick.

After sitting out six games in an eight-game stretch, including a two-game suspension for throwing a towel in the face of coach Jeff Hornacek, Suns forward Markieff Morris had played five consecutive games before missing Thursday’s contest against the Spurs with a shoulder injury. The Suns are trying to showcase Morris, who has asked for a trade and has been disgruntled since the club traded his brother Marcus Morris to the Pistons. Morris does have trade value because he has a manageable contract for the next three seasons (a total of $24 million), but Morris has to prove he can be a productive player without his brother and also a positive locker room presence. Morris’s best season was 2014-15, when he averaged 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 82 games.

That date holds significance in the trade rumor scene, as the Suns were rumored to have interest in a Markieff Morris deal with the Houston Rockets that had Corey Brewer involved, who can’t be traded until Friday. McDonough denied a deal being in place. “We don’t have anything pre-arranged or anything pending,” McDonough said. “I think discussions heated up a little bit in mid-December and then they cooled down around the holidays. “I think talks are getting more serious now. Could we make a trade over the next week or so? Sure, but there’s nothing imminent.”

However, the Suns would now prefer a package of young players or draft picks in any trade for Morris, league sources tell SheridanHoops. Phoenix currently holds the sixth-worst record in the league at 13-27 with point guard Eric Bledsoe out for the remainder of the season. The playoffs look out of reach, even in the weakened Western Conference, and Morris is back in the rotation, having played 27 minutes while jacking up a team-high 18 shots in Tuesday night’s 19-point loss to the Pacers.

The embattled forward played 20 minutes in his return from a two-game suspension against San Antonio last week, but has not seen a minute of action since then. Tuesday, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, “We can’t put a guy out there that’s not going to do his best,” which would seem to be an indication that Morris’ time in the Valley may be running out. However, McDonough said there is not necessarily anything close to something happening with him and a possible trade or not.

Marcus talks to his twin daily and acknowledged the trade rumors swirling around the talented power forward. He made it clear his brother’s preference is to be moved to another team. “One thing about Keef is he’s always positive,” Marcus said. “Some stuff might happen a little, but he’s always positive. He’s still looking to get out of there, still looking to go somewhere else. Right now he has to be a pro and continue to take care of his business on and off the court.”

“It’s not like he’s going to read this and say my brother gave me some advice,” Morris said. “We talk every day. He knows what’s best for him. We all know what’s best for him, and what’s best for him is to continue to be professional and continue to work hard on his game. I know he’s doing that day in, day out — regardless of the suspension and what’s going on. He’s a hard worker, and so he will continue to be ready when his number’s called. If he gets traded, he’ll be able to contribute to any team in the league.”

Marcus Morris has been open with his disdain of the Suns organization since he was traded to the Pistons in the off-season. And with the organization in obvious disarray, Morris said the issues are there for everyone to see. “It’s self-explanatory,” Marcus Morris told the Free Press on Tuesday. “You see what’s going on. Sorry to say it, but it’s self-explanatory. I don’t know what’s going on over there. It’s like a (clown) show right now.”

Morris also said Tuesday that he regretted comments he made over the summer, when he used social media and a Philadelphia Inquirer interview to say that he would not return to the Suns. He had requested a trade from Phoenix and told the Inquirer that he was upset he, as “the premier player of the team,” was not informed by the Suns that they were trading Marcus to Detroit in July. “I could’ve did that different based on the fans,” Morris said Tuesday after Suns practice. “I think I owe the fans an apology for saying some of the stuff I said. They deserve better.”

Yet it turns out that a trade that intrigues Houston greatly and might well have gone down this week, according to league sources, still can’t happen, thanks to the NBA’s (occasionally) complex trade-eligibility rules. As ESPN.com reported Dec. 6, Houston has serious interest in the Phoenix Suns’ very available Markieff Morris. And a Rockets offer of Corey Brewer and Terrence Jones, sources say, has not only been seriously discussed, the teams could get that deal done. The problem: Brewer isn’t quite clear to be dealt yet. Because the Rockets re-signed Brewer to a salary ($8.2 million) that exceeds his prior salary ($4.7 million) by more than 20 percent — and because Houston is over the salary cap — Houston can’t deal the veteran swingman until Jan. 15 as opposed to Dec. 15.

Morris said he did not anticipate being benched, but Hornacek talked to him about it before Sunday’s game at Memphis. “That’s part of the transition,” Morris said. “Coach said he wanted to try something new. I’m just here for when they want to play me and I’m happy we got the win.” Asked if still wanted to be traded, he said: “I’m part of the Phoenix Suns. I’m happy we got the win tonight.” Asked if his relationship with the organization has improved, he said, “I’m happy we got the win tonight.”

Markieff Morris smiles. He talks. He plays basketball. Suns life with a disgruntled, trade-demanding player could not feel much more normal than it has since Morris joined his teammates Monday in Phoenix. As training camp began this week at Northern Arizona University, he tried to put the summer angst behind him. On Monday, he said, “I want to be here.” The about-face sentiment remained Wednesday after practice. Asked if he is happy with his Suns situation, Morris said: “Excited. Happy to be back. Happy to be with my team. I haven’t seen them all summer. We haven’t worked together all summer. I’m excited for the year and I’m excited to get started.”
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