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Suns’ message to Markieff Morris: Rebound or don’t play

Call it an ultimatum. Call it tough love.

Phoenix Suns coach Lindsey Hunter is making it crystal clear what he expects from Markieff Morris.

“If you rebound, you play. If you don’t, you sit,” Hunter said he’s told his second-year power forward. “What else can I say? It’s clear cut.

“It’s not about making shots,” Hunter continued. “It’s about competing defensively and rebounding and doing all those things because if you do those things, the other things will come. You’ll get your attempts. You’ll get all that stuff because you’ll be on the floor. You can’t get all those things if you’re on the bench.”

Morris grabbed 15 rebounds, two shy of a career high, Sunday against Brooklyn. Nine of those rebounds came on the offensive end.

“(Hunter) knows my ability to rebound and I know it myself,” he said.

It was the second time this month Morris had double-digit rebounds in a game, bringing his season average to 4.6, matching his performance from last year.

“Definitely not where I should be or close to where I should be,” he said of his rebounding number. “Basically, (Hunter) has given me the option: rebound or don’t play.”

Morris found himself not playing two games before. Hunter benched him, unhappy with his effort that produced only two rebounds in 11 first half minutes against Washington.

“I respect it,” he said of Hunter’s decision to sit him in quarters three and four. “You’re supposed to come out and play hard no matter what, every night.”

Morris called rebounding “one of my natural abilities.”

He said he noticed something after watching game film with his brother.

“I’ve been boxing out a lot. That’s what I’ve been doing,” Morris explained. “Honestly, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. I’ve been doing it in college and I was successful with it. But (in the NBA) you’ve just got to go get the ball. A lot of guys don’t even block out. They just go get it.”

Hunter believes Morris, enjoying his best stretch of the season with 49 rebounds over his last six games, has just scratched the surface with his ability.

“I think he has another level (to reach),” Hunter said, “and I’m going to keep pushing him to it.”