The Phoenix Suns recently returned home from a tough Eastern road trip that featured travel delays, five games in seven nights and four losses by a combined 14 points.
Another common theme of the trip was the struggle of third-year power forward Markieff Morris, who shot just 29 percent from the floor and averaged 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game on the trek.
But in his last three games at US Airways Center, Morris has been rejuvenated, averaging 21 points and 8.3 boards while shooting a blistering 56 percent.
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek joined Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and said Morris increased his effort level to play himself out of the slump.
“Basically, I grabbed him after practice one day and I said ‘Markieff, we need you, you’re our key guy off the bench, but the only way you’re going to get out of this is to play as hard as you can.’ That’s how you get back into it,” Hornacek said. “I think guys kind of go through the motions sometimes. I think he fell a little bit back into his habit of last year — just kind of floating around and not really running and making hard moves offensively.
“Basically that was it, I told him ‘play as hard as you can and good things will happen.'”
Hornacek went on to explain that there’s one statistic that really indicates how hard the former Kansas star is playing.
“Probably rebounds,” he said. “Whenever you tell a guy you don’t think he’s playing hard, they all tell you ‘Coach, I’m playing hard.’ Then you show them little things on tape and you show them they played 24 minutes and they got three rebounds — from a power forward, that’s not playing hard.
“When Markieff is rebounding, he’s into the game, then he runs up and down the court. I think he enjoys being out there when we’re really pushing the ball because he feels he can really outrun a lot of the four-men.”