A team by team analysis shows the Suns are near the bottom of the league in years, games and minutes played among their reserves. Is the paucity of experience a potential stumbling block?
One of the reasons for my skepticism with the present incarnation of the Phoenix Suns was my inkling over the apparent lack of experience off the bench.
That inkling fomented this research to detail exactly how the Suns' reserves compare to their counterparts across the league in terms of years in the league, regular season games played and total regular season minutes played.
That research confirmed my suspicion that the Suns have a dearth of real time experience at the NBA level.
The Suns have the second least bench games played in the league. Only the Jazz have fewer.
The Suns have the second least bench minutes played in the league. Only the Jazz have fewer.
How does bench experience correspond with winning?
Here are the teams with at least 80,000 minutes played.
Washington, San Antonio, Minnesota, Miami, Memphis, LAC, Houston, Golden St., Detroit, Dallas, Cleveland and Chicago. At least nine of those twelve are favorites to make the playoffs (not including Dallas, Minnesota or Detroit).
Here are the teams with less than 40,000 minutes played.
Utah, Toronto, Portland, Phoenix, Orlando, New York, LAL, Charlotte and Boston. Only Toronto seems like a lock to make the playoffs. Most likely one or two more of them will finish as 7th or 8th seeds.
If playoff experience was included in this evaluation the outlook would be even more grim.
Does the Suns lack of proven production from their reserves have minatory implications?
While it definitely doesn't inspire confidence, it doesn't necessarily guarantee failure. There is evidence to be optimistic about what Alex Len, T.J. Warren and Mirza Teletovic can bring to the table. Perhaps Sonny Weems or Devin Booker can surprise.
On the other hand, the Suns two most proven commodities in terms of experience, Ronnie Price and Jon Leuer, have shown that they just aren't very good NBA players. The less these guys play, the better the chances that someone else has stepped up and is providing a meaningful contribution. With Price and Leuer less is more.
Age and experience outside of the NBA also hasn't been factored in. The Suns have some "veterans" that lack "experience".
Given this information, though, I think it's perfectly logical for pundits to point at the Suns unproven bench as a reason the team will miss the playoffs and underperform relative to the expectations of some of their fans.
Another factor to consider is that the Jazz, who the Suns may be competing against for a playoff spot, are basically the only team less experienced than the Suns. Dante Exum's injury doesn't help that situation. Utah will be counting on a lot of unproven commodities as well, while some of their depth has already been compromised.
The Suns bench may remain a question mark well into the season, with so many young players there is a chance they struggle out of the gate, but improve as the season progresses.
What do you think? Will this be a weakness? Maybe you even think it can be a strength...
Make sure to vote in the poll.
*I tried diligently to include information that is as accurate as possible, but there may be minor inconsistencies due to the fungible nature of rosters and depth charts. The following sites were used to compile the data.
Basketball-reference.com - statistics
CBSSports.com - transactions, depth charts
Sheridanhoops.com - rosters, salary cap
The Foolishness continues. With Marcus Morris dumping his agent this week after being dumped by the Suns and Markieff's trade demand festering on the table, it's time to update the timeline of destruction for the Morris twins' hopes and dreams to spend the bulk of their NBA careers together with the Phoenix Suns.
You may think you know it all, but reading the totality of the twins' self-destruction is a bit mind-blowing. A year ago, they were potentially becoming the faces of the Suns franchise. Now, fans can't wait until the final images of that face can be wiped off the Suns franchise forever.
And everyone rejoiced.
"It's a dream come true," Markieff Morris said at the time. "We'd like to thank the Suns for believing in us. It feels like a family atmosphere and we felt it was right to re-sign as early as we did and be a part of this family for the long term."
The Phoenix Suns were coming off a cinderella season (sans the fitted slipper) in which they turned a predicted 16-66 record into just-short 48-34 blitzing of their critics. At the center of the feel-good Suns story were a pair of twins who came off the bench to provide a collective 23 points and 10 rebounds a night in about 50 minutes of play. Markieff was a finalist for the league's Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the year awards.
The Morris brothers spent the entire offseason at the Suns facilities, working out and improving their games as the Suns made moves to put them each into more prominent roles in the coming season.
They even made a cameo on GM Ryan McDonough's hilarious Ice Bucket Challenge video. Check out all those smiling faces.
"This was the only way," Markieff Morris said at Media Day regarding free agency for he and his brother. "If we were open [to being separated] we probably wouldn't have signed [yet]."
At the least, Markieff could have commanded a much bigger payday on the open market this summer than $8 million per year for the next four years. He puts up 15 points and grabs 6 rebounds in 30 minutes per game and became one of the league's best clutch shooters. But he wanted to stay with his brother, so they collectively gave the Suns a bargain in order to sign on the same dotted line.
The Suns were thrilled. With the rising cap, having a pair of legitimate rotation players at a combined $13 million for several years, was a coup.
"All of this was designed to make sure we had no distractions," Suns president Lon Babby said. "That we were able to move forward from that higher level [established last year] and give ourselves the best chance of having another great season."
"We value stability," GM Ryan McDonough said at the time. "We don't want to be a team that turns their roster over every year, especially unnecessarily. We wanted to get our core take care of."
So much for that.
The Suns were off to a slow start and barely beat an awful Pistons team on the road. Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, having a rough shooting year, had just made two huge shots in the final minute to give to the Pistons a chance to surprise the Suns.
But KCP missed the potential game-winner, a wide open three pointer as time expired, leading to a Markieff quote that still makes little sense, especially since Keef himself contributed just 10 points and 4 rebounds in the win.
To which Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy rightly responded...
Two weeks later, the 3-19 Pistons came to Phoenix and won. Good work, Keef.
Let's start keeping score. The Morrii have so far publicly shown disrespect to
This is just the beginning. Sure, players disrespect each other all the time. Not a big deal. But this was the first time Keef had done something like this, and in retrospect this even belongs in the timeline.
Joy was missing from the locker room all season. The light-hearted cheerleader type locker room boys - Ish Smith and Dionte Christmas - were gone, replaced by quiet young players waiting their turn to prove they belonged in the NBA. The sage veteran Channing Frye was gone, replaced by an intense young player impatiently chomping at the bit for more minutes.
In their absences, the locker room turned to the Morris brothers to set the tone for the team. They, along with P.J. Tucker, appeared determined to establish the Suns as the bad boys of the league, a brash young group who already belonged and they were willing to rack up the T's to prove it.
But they didn't prove it on the scoreboard. One of the league's easiest first half schedules simply allowed them a chance to worry more about their posing and chest-puffing than a playoff race.
The Suns were 19-16 with a win over Philadelphia, barely clinging onto the 8th spot in the West, when Bryan Gibberman famously implored the Suns to give up the season for a higher draft pick. Forget that the chasm of disparity in the West would prevent the Suns from improving to much better than 12th in the draft lottery. Gibberman's point was to play the kids more and stop worrying about wins.
Marcus Morris responded by blocking Sreekar on twitter (a move which killed Sreekar apparently, since he hasn't been seen since) and tweeting 'Foolishness' back to the BrightSideSun twitter account.
Before his untimely death, Sreekar did design this cool T-shirt at least.
Like the KCP situation, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with a writer about the future of the team. And in fact, I agreed with Marcus here. The Suns needed to push to win every game.
However, in retrospect, it's rare that a player openly reacts to an article like this and it belongs in the timeline.
The next day, Jim C. talked about the Suns leading the league in techs, referring to the overtime loss to OKC where the Suns and Thunder combined for seven techs. Many Suns players, namely the Morrii and Tucker, had developed a reputation for complaining to the refs during dead balls, sometimes even AFTER they'd gotten the foul call in their favor. It appeared the refs were ready to T them up the moment they looked cross-eyed.
Jim blasted the players not being able to control themselves, and concluded with a prescient line:
The Suns need to cut this crap out. They're better than this.
And if they don't, Jeff Hornacek needs to do something about it.
Perhaps benching Markieff's ass for the rest of the game next time he picks up a stupid tech will help get the message across. Then afterwards let him deal with this teammates that he let down and explain to the fans why he can't control his temper during a game.
If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect an opposing player and the referees.
And in a span of two days, Bright Side predicted (a) that the Suns were deluding themselves in thinking they were a playoff team and (b) the Suns coaches needed to bench players for picking up stupid techs.
Clearly, by now Bright Side was in the Suns' heads.
If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to
Three days later during a game against the lowly Timberwolves, Marcus Morris completely lost his cool. On national TV, he yelled so hard at the coach he was spitting.
Mook complained about a missed foul call, and Hornacek reportedly (by Hornacek himself) used some colorful language of his own to tell Mook to "man up" and stop complaining. Mook took exception to that advice.
Mook didn't see the court the rest of the game. He later apologized, but as you can see with the next entry on this list the team didn't learn any lessons.
If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to
We didn't hear about this new rule until after it happened, but the rule was first employed the game after Mook's blow up. With Markieff and Marcus combining the lead in the league in technicals, it's obvious the source of the Suns coaches' frustrations.
The Suns lost to the Spurs in an awfully ended game where Bledsoe and Tucker both got technical fouls with about two minutes left in a one-possession game. The Ts put the Spurs up by two scores, and Bledsoe and Tucker did not see the floor the rest of the game.
After the game, Hornacek explained the reasoning:
"You know what, we're tired. The coaches have talked about that all year. We're just going to take them out when they get technicals from now on, simple as that."
Thanks Jim. Thanks for putting that idea in Jeff's head. I know his daughter Abby follows us on twitter. She probably read your story and mentioned it to dad, who thought 'now that just might work!'.
But it didn't. The players were still in denial, which portended to an awful ending to this saga.
"It wasn't the reason we lost the game. Definitely wasn't the reason we lost the game. It was a bad technical and I apologize for the technical... but the tech didn't lose the game."
--P.J. Tucker, whose ill-timed T turned a one-possession game into a two-possession and his own ejection game with 2 minutes left.
This is another example of the players showing disrespect to the coaching staff, by denying their own negative impact on the game through their hot-headed actions.
The act itself - declining to speak to the media after a game - was not the problem at all. The problem was that Keef had just had the game of his life, with 35 points against LeBron James in a big Suns win. The media was all around, waiting for him to finish dressing. The Suns PR person, Julie Fie, implored him to stay to talk. He simply refused. He pushed through the media and barely stopped to talk to Julie before exiting the locker room.
The next day, he went on the air to apologize, but by then the damage was done.
"It was me being childish," he said to radio host John Gambadoro on ArizonaSports 98.7 'Gambo and Burns' of the incident. "I've got to be smarter than that. I need to show you guys (the media) more respect. Honestly, I just wanted to take the day off from media and go home and enjoy my family."
The media didn't really like talking to Keef anyway, so he was rarely even asked for an interview again this season.
If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to
After going six whole games without a T (racking up a 4-2 record in that span), yet another Phoenix Sun lost his cool during a tough game and got himself T'd up. This time it was Goran Dragic, against the Houston Rockets. I'm sure the coach didn't want to bench him, but you can't play favorites and a rule is a rule.
You'd think these players would figure out all you need to do is STOP ARGUING WITH OFFICIALS. It's about winning a game, not demanding respect from the officials. smh.
The Morrii apparently took the loss well....
Less than 24 hours after losing to the Houston Rockets, dropping their record to 26-19, the Morrii went to local gym to watch basketball and reportedly took the time to assault someone in a 5-on-1 attack.
Uh, don't you guys need the rest? You're playing the Clippers in about 20 hours, for chrissake.
The Suns front office didn't know about this alleged assault until a few days afterward, and then only in rumor. The police did not charge the boys until much later in the year.
If you're keeping score, the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to
The next night, the Suns lost by a ton to the Clippers. They were completely outmatched in this game. Keef put up only 9 and 3 in the game, taking only 9 shots, while Marcus scored 13 with 3 rebounds.
Before the alleged assault, the Suns had run their record to 26-19, and were still clinging to playoff position.
The coaches were tired of the techs, but apparently even more tired of watching their players' inability to handle the pressure of NOT COMPLAINING CONSTANTLY TO THE OFFICIALS.
So they capitulated to the players' request to stop benching them for arguing.
"We talked about it," Hornacek said to the media at practice. "We've tried both ways and we're just going to try to do a better job as a team, as teammates, to corral each other when they start to argue. The guys came up with that."
Another sign of the beginning of the end. In my opinion, this is the act of a defeated coach, unable to comprehend why the players just couldn't follow a simple rule. So he finally said "fine".
While the Suns did reach a high water mark two games later at 28-20, the wheels were already starting to fall off the season by this time.
"We have a kind of bad reputation with refs," Dragic said after the loss on Monday. "Sometimes we don't get a call and they (the opponent) can be extra aggressive."
Despite only replacing Channing Frye with Isaiah Thomas in the rotation, the Suns went from going to the line on 29% of their shots to 25%. And this with Thomas leading the team on free throw rate!
Not only were the Suns getting Td up, they weren't getting the foul calls they should have gotten because the refs were just so sick of the whining.
Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and a few others were dumped at the deadline to purportedly bring professionalism and team basketball back to the clubhouse.
"Every move we make is with the goal of getting the Phoenix Suns to a championship level," said McDonough at the time. "Sometimes players view that as a good thing, I think they usually do, the good ones do. But sometimes players get a little selfish and are more worried about I, me and my then us, our and we."
He didn't stop there.
"We're looking for team first guys," McDonough said. "This isn't singles tennis. The guys who will be here are the guys that buy in and play the right way. Those who don't will be gone."
At this point, Bledsoe, Tucker and the Morrii became the undisputed leaders in the clubhouse.
In retrospect, further enabling the Morrii was probably not the right way to go. They'd so far publicly shown disrespect to an opposing player, the referees, their own coach, the media and (allegedly) a former mentor. In just the last three months.
The team and the future of the franchise was now laid in Markieff Morris' lap, at least for the time being. Fans were shellshocked, unsure what to make of the team.
It was Keef's responsibility to establish a relationship with the Suns fan base, or at least not make matters worse.
After a particularly awful loss in which the team scored only 24 second half points in a drubbing by the long-hated Spurs, Keef decided it was the perfect time to share his thoughts on Suns fans.
"We need a home court advantage and it doesn't seem like a home court advantage at all."
"Some games are gonna be bad. You can't win every game. We need the support, us as a team, to know the fans are gonna be behind us. I don't feel like this year they're behind us like before."
"No, they don't boo. They don't care that much neither. We feed off, for the most part, off the energy of each other. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. I know we have a lot of genuine fans in the first row, the second row, the third row, but once you go up it seems like fans are at the game just watching."
"You're damn right I feel a difference (on the road). It just don't feel like we got a home court advantage, like I said. It just feels like we got fans from all over they just cheer for everybody."
Check that one off the list, I guess. At the time, I tried to explain their position - though they never asked me to defend them and in fact had never shown any desire for the media to defend them on anything - and agreed that Suns fans were quieter than they could be.
But man. This was after the blow-up trade deadline. This was when the fanbase was iffy in part because they didn't know who to cheer for anymore.
Final score, in the span of four short months the Morrii have now publicly shown disrespect to
The brothers appear to be going with the theory that as long as they deny any involvement, they weren't actually there.
"I feel like if we wasn't in the NBA, (expletive), we wouldn't be having this conversation," Marcus said to the detective who was investigating the allegations.
Except that witnesses put them at the scene, and convincing testimony from the alleged victim has them part of the fray (especially Marcus). They are 6'9"! They drove a Rolls Royce Phantom to and from the event! smh
Why would they even be involved? Don't they know they stick out like a sore thumb (or, in this case, toe). Even the alleged victim couldn't understand why the Morrii allegedly participated in the beating.
Can they get away with this tack? Maybe. They're still trying to make this go away.
While the Suns tried to lure LaMarcus Aldridge to the valley, they made room under the cap for his salary by dumping Marcus and a couple other guys on Detroit.
After reading that timeline of self-destruction, can you blame the Suns for splitting these guys up?
Lol this a foul game here man!— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) July 2, 2015
Most telling about this trade was how McDonough handled it with the media. He admitted he made no attempt to contact Markieff, the remaining twin, before or after the trade to gauge his reaction. Even two weeks later.
This did not sit well with Markieff or Marcus.
In a completely predictable reaction, Marcus Morris laid into the Suns after his trade without accepting any of the blame himself.
"Everybody knew how bad I wanted to play with my brother," Marcus said at the Pistons press conference when the trade was finalized. "Phoenix knew. For them to trade me without consent or telling me was like a slap in the face, because of the contract I took from those guys and the money I took from them."
The money he took - $5 million per year for 10 points, 4 rebounds a game - was not all that bad. In fact, players like Marcus were getting less money last year when he signed that contract. But hey, whatever floats your boat, Marcus.
The "Tote board of disrespect" update:
I'm blocking most of the Suns fans on my timeline most of them bandwagon any way . I still got love for some #foe— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) July 31, 2015
Marcus went on a big long twitter rant after that, blasting fans, media and the Suns front office. Click the link in the timeline for all the sordid details.
Another "Tote board of disrespect" update:
While their lawyers are trying to get a new grand jury review of the case, the Morris twins just decided they didn't have to show up to the hearing.
The judge didn't take kindly to this, and since let the twins know that they are fully expected to show for the next hearing.
Yet another "Tote board of disrespect" update:
And here's where the timeline currently sits. The twins are still joined at the hip, and still hating on the Suns with the passion of a thousand suns.
"One thing for sure, I am not going to be there," Markieff said to a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If you want to put that out there, you can put that out...I am not going to be there, at all.".
He says the Marcus trade had nothing to do with their problems off the court, but simply was an act of disrespect.
"They can tell you anything about the [felony aggravated assault] case and all of that," Morris said of his brother being traded. "Nah, it has nothing to do with that. That's just all disrespect and all unprofessional. They called us unprofessional. That's what that is, unprofessional. No one is trying to hear that."
And then Marcus felt he had to one-up his brother or something.
"As far as I'm concerned, I never was a Phoenix Sun," Marcus said.
Let's see how President and GM Ryan McDonough handles this level of disrespect. Last time, he vehemently attacked the player after trading him within days. This time, he's not even bothered to try to contact Markieff at all since the summer the started. That tells me a trade, and then a post-trade blasting is in order. It might not happen until right before training camp, but a trade is bound to happen regardless.
This week, Marcus dropped his agent, Leon Rose, to sign with another agency. Maybe now Marcus has decided that his agent was the problem after all. Markieff may just follow suit pretty quickly. Where his brother goes, he goes.
Let's do an updated recount of everyone the Morris twins have disrespected in the past year:
So many people disrespected by the Morris twins in so little time. It's mind boggling.
Yet their biggest challenge is still to come.
Sure, the players' lawyers could negotiate down the aggravated assault charges to misdemeanors and get the Morrii off with probation and community service and fines.
But if convicted of aggravated assault, solid prison time is in their future. If they continue to disrespect the process, their attorneys, the prosecutors, or the victims like they've disrespected people all season, I can absolutely see that happening.
Unique Phoenix Suns items for sale on eBay!
Like a Corleone, you too can be the one to hold the strings. Seller offers no real details about this piece other than that it is "used." Definitely takes your bobblehead collection to another level. Pick this up for 30 bucks, shipping included.
Would look great next to your creepy Shawn Marion puppet! This 150 piece puzzle of the 2006-07 Suns in Rome comes in a sealed can that doubles as a bank. Buyer beware, the can does have a small dent on the rim. Buy it now for $11, throw in $6 to ship.
Hmmmmm. No COA with this one. In any event, for an Alvan Adams fan it's a bargain even without the signature. If you care to take a chance on this one, it's headed in your direction for the ultra low cost of 15 bucks after shipping.
Evidently an Alvan Adams signature doesn't break the bank. Found this one as well.
More Matrix! Stadium giveaway and still in the original plastic wrap. Seller has four for sale, and if you're interested in adding this to your collection, the price isn't too bad. $15 to buy, $15 to ship.
Seller states it's "great for displaying!" Or you could use it to diagram defensive schemes against last second shots. An interesting piece, it's being listed for $90 plus another $8 to ship, but the seller will hear offers so take a chance at saving some bucks.