In his fourth year with the Phoenix Suns, Markieff Morris has become one of the centerpieces of the franchise.
He is, after all, the longest-tenured player on the roster.
And he is ever-improving. The 25-year-old is averaging 15.1 points per game, marking the third straight season he’s increased that statistic. Morris is the only player that has started all 60 games for the Suns in 2014-15.
But in the grand scheme of things, he’s still a young player in the NBA, something that should be accounted for after hearing Morris’ comments toward Suns fans last Saturday.
Following an embarrassing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the former Kansas Jayhawk made comments suggesting he doesn’t feel like Suns fans are all that supportive and they need to provide more of a home-court advantage with their energy at US Airways Center.
Robert Sarver, the owner of the Suns, feels comments like these are a product of youth and inexperience, more than anything else.
“We have a young team and with youth in anything, comes mistakes and learning and opportunities,” Sarver told Burns and Gambo Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “We made this commitment to rebuild, so we have to make a commitment to developing these young kids.”
Morris sparked conversation earlier this season when he led the Suns to a spirited 107-100 home win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 13. In that game, Morris outplayed James while scoring a career-high 35 points.
After the game, Morris opted not to talk to the media, missing an opportunity to “promote the team.” He apologized a day later, calling it “childish.”
“The thing I like about Markieff is he cares about the franchise, he cares about the Suns, he wants to win,” Sarver said. “Now, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, and sometimes those get the best of him.
“This isn’t the University of Kansas, where all the students are going crazy the whole game, which is basically the only other environment he knows. But he cares about the team and I think you see that in his contract that he negotiated. I think he gave us a pretty good deal because he wants to be here and he wants to play for the Suns and he wants us to do well.”
Morris stood by the comments Monday as the team prepares for the first game of a four-game road trip against the Miami Heat, adding he’s speaking for the entire team.
Is it possible that Morris is trying to become the vocal leader the Suns are lacking? That remains to be seen, but Sarver feels like the Suns are missing that leader on their roster, though that’s by design.
“I think in order to be a championship-level team, you have to have that type of leadership,” he said. “But I also think you have to be careful to not bring that in too soon, because if you bring it in too soon, the younger guys don’t have a chance to play and develop and you limit your upside.”