LA JOLLA, Calif. — He’s one of the few familiar faces in training camp.
Yet even Markieff Morris is looking like a new player.
The Suns second-year power forward said he added 13 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason.
“The better shape I’m in,” Morris said, “the more I can play, the more I can contribute to the team on defense and offense.”
Coming into this year, he was already expected to play a big role, more so now given the uncertain future of Channing Frye.
Head coach Alvin Gentry has noticed a significant difference in last season’s first round draft pick (13th overall).
“He worked extremely hard this summer,” Gentry said. “He’s improved his overall game.”
The work started immediately.
Morris said he spent the entire summer in Phoenix, working out with his twin brother Marcus, drafted with the very next pick by the Houston Rockets.
“I feel a lot better about my game, about my confidence,” Morris said. “Summer League definitely helped me a lot.”
Morris averaged 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in five Summer League games; three times he scored 21 or more points and twice he posted double-doubles.
Morris was among six rookies to average at least seven points and four rebounds last year; while his 4.4-rebound average was the best by a Suns rookie since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2002-03.
“For me, it’s more of a confidence thing,” he said. “As long as my confidence stays up I feel like I have the ability to do anything.”
Helping Morris this week is recent Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Ralph Sampson, whom the Suns have brought in to work with player development.
Morris is also getting hands-on advice from one of his brother’s former teammates, Luis Scola.
“He’s a very a skilled player,” Morris said of the Argentinan veteran. “He’s tricky; and if I can add that trickiness to my game, I will just get even better.”
According to Gentry, “Luis has been great talking to him trying to teach him things: angles and what you do, just the peripheral vision and things like that.”
Morris started seven of the 63 games he played last season. He’s fine with whichever role awaits him this season.
“Whatever Coach decides is cool with me,” he said. “I’m going to contribute either way and help my team either way.”