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Suns GM: Markieff Morris’ actions speak louder than his comments

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris, right, looks to pass around San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, of France, during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in San Antonio. Phoenix won 104-84. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns general manager

The Phoenix Suns are tipping off their season Wednesday night, which means the offseason will officially be a thing of the past.

And in some ways, that’s a good thing.

Though a lot of what the Suns did was positive and well-received — be it the drafting of Kentucky’s Devin Booker at No. 13 or the free agent signing of Tyson Chandler — the saga that was their dealings with the Morris brothers gained the wrong kind of attention.

Pretty much from the moment the Suns dealt Marcus Morris to the Detroit Pistons, he — and his twin brother Markieff — let it be known just how upset they were.

In late July, Marcus and Arizona Sports host John Gambadoro engaged in a bit of a Twitter spat, and there were times when Gambadoro tweeted some unkind things to Markieff, as well.

The dust has since settled, with Marcus getting off to a good start in Detroit and Markieff playing the good soldier in Phoenix. But that doesn’t mean it was an easy summer for Suns GM Ryan McDonough, who was a guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday.

“Well you certainly didn’t help us at all,” McDonough told Gambadoro.

The host responded by explaining that it is not his job to help the team or make things easier for them, to which the GM replied that he “didn’t realize it was your job to badger our players, either.”

“But maybe I misunderstood your job description,” he added.

When Gambadoro asked McDonough if he blames the host for what happened, the GM said he did not blame him for any of the problems — in fact, he said he was amused by it.

Regardless of what happened then, things have been quiet with regards to Morris ever since he returned to the Valley for media day and then training camp and preseason. And that, McDonough said, means more to him than anything that was said over the previous few months.

“The comments this summer were comments,” he said. “I don’t put a whole lot of stock into words. I put more stock into actions.”

That Morris’ actions have been that of a player who is, if nothing else, accepting of his situation is a good thing for the team, because the 26-year-old’s presence on the court is beneficial to the cause.

Last season, which was his fourth in the league, Morris averaged a career-high 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting .465 from the field. He had a knack for hitting clutch shots, and started to emerge as a go-to player for the team when it was in need of a bucket.

That fact is part of what bothered McDonough with regards to the perception of Morris, because the off-court issues caused people to gloss over all the on-court progress he had made.

“All the comments and actions, and I’m certainly not defending them, but that’s overshadowed his play on the court, which has been pretty good, as you guys know,” he said. “He’s one of the leading clutch scorers in the league, he helped us win a bunch of games or tie a bunch of games, send us into overtime last year and all that I feel like got pushed aside this summer because of the comments which, again, I understand why.”

You have to remember, there’s a reason the Suns did not trade the forward, despite his constant requests to be dealt from Phoenix. Though no team wants a player who does not want to be there, at some point an organization has to make a stand and not cave to a frustrated talent’s every whim.

Morris, for all the trouble he was causing in the media, was still viewed as part of the team’s core, which is something that McDonough had little interest in breaking up.

“I felt like it was going to work out in the end,” he said, adding he feels like the team is prepared for any scenario that may arise. “So we look at a number of things. I think in the NBA, 90 to 95 percent of the discussions you have don’t lead anywhere, so we were fairly certain and fairly confident he’d come back and once he got around his teammates and coaches and realized it’s not about us in the front office or ownership, it’s about playing for those guys and playing for himself and his family name and trying to have a long and productive career, which I think he’s certainly well on his way to having, then he’ll be fine.

“And over the last month or so he has been fine.”

Ultimately, this may be a case of all’s well that ends well. The road to get to this point was winding, but the destination may yet have been reached.

Asked if he would have approached or done anything differently over the summer, McDonough said it’s something he’s thought about himself.

Pointing out how the organization got flack in the media for how the Morris trade went down in terms of notifying Marcus, the GM said they notified his agent the second a deal was reached, as per their policy — and that of many other teams.

“I guess, just reading what I read that the guys might have wanted some kind of veto power or something with the trade, or some kind of say, and that’s not something I’ve done in the past, I don’t think that’s something we’ll do going forward. I’m not really comfortable with that,” he said. “That’s not our job to kind of run it by guys and get their opinion of it. Our job is to put the best team on the floor, whoever that may be, and I think we’ve upgraded our roster this season.”

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