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ESPN’s Windhorst paints unflattering picture of culture with the Phoenix Suns

LISTEN: Brian Windhorst, ESPN NBA reporter

Last week, the Phoenix Suns finally rid themselves of Markieff Morris, trading the disgruntled forward to the Washington Wizards for a package that included a protected 2016 first-round draft pick.

The consensus around the league was that Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough made the best of a bad situation, salvaging a palatable return for a player that needed to get out of town.

Brian Windhorst, who covers the NBA for ESPN, is one that subscribes to the theory that the Suns got as much as they could for Morris and that could be a good thing in the future.

“Well, they got a protected first-round pick, so that was good and Ryan McDonough has done a nice job of drafting,” Windhorst told Bickley and Marotta Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

“But to me, I look at it as you had a really good player in Markieff Morris, you had him on a really good contract, and you spoiled it. I know that Markieff has issues, absolutely, but up until they made the move with Marcus, he was operating well and you had him on a beautiful contract.”

Although there were issues before last summer, the real problems with Morris, as Windhorst pointed out, started when the Suns dealt his twin brother Marcus to the Detroit Pistons to free up salary cap space to pursue free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, who eventually signed with San Antonio. Markieff, as the story goes, was bent out of shape that not only his twin was traded, but that neither Morris brother received advanced notice about the deal.

Windhorst says even though the Suns got something in return from Washington, he’d rather have Morris.

“I would rather have a player on a nice contract that’s playing well in their prime as opposed to maybe getting a draft pick that’s somewhere in the teens and maybe you hit the 50 percent chance of that guy being a good player,” he said. “The Markieff Morris story, while I agree that at (the deadline), getting a first-round pick for him when he’s been on the market for seven months, I agree, that’s a nice deal.

“But overall, it’s a sad story for Phoenix. It’s sad because of all the talent that has left in the last two years and all the uncertainty coming back.”

Windhorst points out that the Suns, just two years ago, were one of the feel-good stories of the NBA when they defied the odds to win 48 games and just miss out on the playoffs under then-first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Now, they’re 14-42, Hornacek has been fired and the future is, at best, murky in the desert.

“Maybe it’s not one person that’s at fault, maybe it’s four people, maybe it’s 12 people or maybe it’s the gods,” Windhorst said.

“Whatever it is, it’s a failure to see what’s happened to this franchise in the last two years. And having a player like Markieff Morris, who was signed to a beautiful contract, going out the door for a situation like that is part of the failure.”

The discussion then turned to the culture in Phoenix and how it needs to improve.

“It starts at the very, very top,” Windhorst said. “You have to have stability and vision from the ownership.”

Interestingly enough, Windhorst didn’t call out Suns owner Robert Sarver by name, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to spread his opinion on the issues facing the Valley’s oldest pro franchise.

“To me, the biggest hurdle anyone has to overcome — whether it’s hiring a coach or signing free agents — is getting past when somebody does their due diligence on what’s happened in Phoenix,” he said. “No matter what you want to say — and (Sarver) could come on and debate me right now and probably put up a fight and probably score some points since he’d be preaching to his fans, they would probably side with him.

“But I’m telling you, when people talk about the Phoenix Suns in the league, people who have to make decisions on whether they want to sign in Phoenix or whether they want to coach Phoenix, the first thing they talk about is the owner. There is damage there that needs to be rectified and it’s not going to be done in one summer.”

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