PHOENIX, Ariz. — Consistent, defined as unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.
Synonyms: constant, regular, steady.
It’s a trait the Phoenix Suns had been waiting to see Markieff Morris display on the court ever since they drafted the 6-10, 245-pound power forward out of Kansas with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Their wait, his search, ended this season.
“That was kind of the knock on him prior to the year was he has some great games and then five games go by and he’s nonexistent and then he has another great game,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said in April. “It’s a confidence thing too. When you start to play well and you’ll have a long stretch of games where you play well, that becomes your norm. I think that’s where Markieff is now. His norm is playing pretty well.”
And his playing well came from off the bench, a role he elbowed his way into this season.
The plan entering the season was for Morris to elevate his role from reserve to starter in his third year in the league. That plan changed, however, when he missed the season opener due to a one-game suspension for a right elbow to the face of Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka in the preseason.
Channing Frye got the start, the Suns beat Portland — the first of many surprises during the 2013-14 season — and the rest as they say is history.
Frye never left the starting lineup and Morris became the Suns’ sixth man, coming off the bench for the remaining 81 games. In fact, Morris, 24, finished fourth in the race for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, receiving five first-place votes.
His 1,115 points scored was the third-most productive season by a reserve player in Suns’ history, topped only by Dan Majerle (1,143 in 1991-92) and Eddie Johnson (1,339 in 1988-89).
Morris set career highs in points (13.8), rebounds (6.0) and assists (1.8) while shooting better than ever from the field (48.6 percent) and foul line (79.2 percent).
He increased his scoring by more than five points from the previous season, ending the year as the team’s fourth-leading scorer — including the highest mark out of the Suns’ frontcourt players. He was also the team’s third-leading rebounder.
“For the most part, yeah,” Morris said when asked about being more consistent. “Earlier in the season, I struggled a little bit, but then as the season went on I picked it up more.”
He’s not kidding.
Morris scored in double figures in 41 of the final 45 games, including three straight games of 20 or more points in late February.
His run of success followed a benching in Detroit (zero points in eight minutes) and an ejection in New York (two points in nine minutes) over a 72-hour period in January.
“I think I improved a lot, but the best thing about it is I’ve got a long way to go — a lot more space for improvement,” he said.
He elaborated on which aspect of his game he’d like to see improvement.
“In every area,” continued Morris, who will be eligible in the fall for a contract extension. “Rebounding: I think I could’ve rebounded at a higher rate. Probably scored at a higher rate. I could’ve been more efficient earlier in the season. Defense. There are a lot of areas of my game that can get better.”