When things go badly for a team, there are a number of ways they can react. They can dig down, get in the proverbial "foxhole," and stick together, or they can turn on one another. Let's just say that the Phoenix Suns, losers of six of their last eight, aren't exactly in the trenches with one another. At least Markieff Morris isn't.
The temperamental Suns forward, who entered the season saying that he would be traded due to his unhappiness over the deal that sent his brother Marcus to Detroit, hasn't played nearly as well as he did last season and his overall minutes have suffered because of it. (Morris is averaging roughly eight fewer minutes per game this season.) On Wednesday in a pitiful loss at home to an extremely short-handed Nuggets team, his relationship with the team hit a new low, when after being pulled from the game with 9:47 to play, Morris threw a temper tantrum toward coach Jeff Hornacek. The incident wasn't caught on broadcast, but the Arizona Republic reported:
Much like Horry on a 10-21 Suns team in 1997, Morris was upset about being pulled from the fourth quarter from a 12-19 Suns team. With 9:47 to play and Denver leading 84-75, Morris was taken out of the game and he threw the towel while barking at Hornacek. Hornacek picked up the towel and threw it back Morris’ way with his own upset words for him.
“He’s mad about not playing,” Hornacek said. “I look at the stat sheet. He’s a minus-13 in 12 minutes. So there, I took him out. … He thinks he’s better than that. Show me.”
Hornacek said the Suns staff will discuss possible discipline for Morris, who has created a stir since the offseason when he asked to be traded after his twin, Marcus, was dealt. Markieff did not arrive in Phoenix until it was required for training camp. He lost his starting job earlier this month.
In January, Marcus also engaged in a shouting match during a game with Hornacek. He apologized publicly and to Hornacek after the game.
“That’s between me and ‘H’ (Hornaceck),” said Markieff, who made 2 of 8 shots and had one rebound Wednesday. “It’s not for media. It’s something between me and him that happened. We’ll talk about it.”
Honestly, this is a pretty predictable consequence of not committing to trading Morris earlier. The Suns refused to compromise their leverage with Morris' trade value, and instead have kept him on roster despite his unhappiness. There have been rumors over the past month of interest in Morris from the Pelicans and Rockets but no substantive talks have been reported, and meanwhile, Morris is only becoming more combustible.
You would think that "throwing a towel at the coach's head and throwing a tirade" would be the tipping point toward the team finally pulling the trigger and moving the disgruntled mini-big, but Phoenix and its front office have shown they're willing to be stubborn about this.
The incident did bring back memories of the 1997 scandal in which Robert Horry (you know, "Big Shot Rob") threw a towel in the face of then-Suns coach Danny Ainge.