Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris has improved rather dramatically as a basketball player this season.
The 25-year-old is averaging a career-high 15.2 points to go along with 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. His 30.8 minutes per game is also the most he has ever played, and the 13.4 shots he is taking per game rank second on the team behind Brandon Knight, who has been with the Suns for just seven games.
But where it appears Morris has not improved — or, at least, needs to improve — is in areas that have little to do with his actual game.
Last week, Morris called out Suns fans after Phoenix had a season-worst effort at home against the San Antonio Spurs.
“I think the timing of what he said was beyond awful and I don’t think he speaks for the team in the sense that it came across,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “In terms of how we dealt with it, Ryan (McDonough) and I have sat down and and talked with him and with his brother this week.
“This may not be the right time to say it, but I think they have the potential to be leaders on our team, but they’re just young and I don’t excuse everything because of youth, but I do think their judgment is sometimes a little bit off and they’ve got to work at that and we’ve got to help them work at that. But they have the capacity to be leaders and I hope over time they’ll develop that.”
Babby added that the story about calling out fans has been somewhat overblown, in his opinion, but understands why people may be upset with what the player said.
But even ignoring Morris’ comments, there is the troubling issue of his league-leading 13 techincal fouls this season. That has been a season-long issue, one the team has struggled to curtail.
Put everything together, and you would appear to have a talented basketball player who is growing as a player but not necessarily as a person.
“I don’t know know that his growth as a person is lagging,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “I think he’s certainly making great strides on the court.
“You know, we’re putting these guys in positions they’ve never been in before. That includes speaking to the media after having one of the worst games you’ve ever had and making some, I thought, inappropriate and certainly untimely comments. But I wouldn’t read a whole lot more into that.”
Babby understands that Morris touched a nerve with his comments about the home fans, but views it as the organization’s job to earn the support they desire.
But at the same time, he understands Morris has work to do to help restore his image.
“He’s going to have to redeem himself, as I say, with his play on the court and his future conduct on the court,” he said. “And it’s not just about that. It’s about the technicals and things like that.
“Both he and his brother, and others on our team, are just going to have to grow their way through that. And we’ll do everything we can to help them.”