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Suns coach: ‘It’s possible’ Markieff Morris will return to floor soon

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
LISTEN: Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns head coach

Markieff Morris did not log a single minute in the Phoenix Suns’ 104-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks Monday night.

It was the sixth time in the last seven games he has been unable to get off the bench, and the one game he did play — in Chicago against the Bulls — he appeared for just seven minutes.

Morris seems to have fallen far out of the rotation and, maybe, even out of favor, as there are plenty of rumors swirling that he may be part of a trade sooner rather than later.

Until a trade happens, though, Morris will continue to be a Sun, and coach Jeff Hornacek said the fourth-year pro isn’t destined to spend the rest of the season on the bench.

Noting how Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic played well while Morris was out with various injuries, Hornacek told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM it just didn’t make sense to change things up.

“Now, if the guys are struggling a little bit, then it’s back to him getting in there,” Hornacek said. “We’ve talked to him. He kind of understands it. We’re just hoping that at some point we get him back in there in the regular rotation, whether it’s coming off the bench as one of those first subs in there. But we’re going to have to give him that chance to get back to playing like maybe he did last year.”

That point may be arriving shortly.

Monday night, while Leuer played well with 15 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, Teletovic missed all five of his shot attempts and contributed just four rebounds, one turnover and one foul.

While one rough game would not necessitate a lineup change, Hornacek said “it’s possible” Morris could see some time on the floor Wednesday when the Suns visit the Golden State Warriors, at either his customary power forward position or maybe even the center spot in a small lineup.

“We want him to be ready and we still believe that he’s going to give us this lift here at some point,” Hornacek said. “Maybe that’s the Golden State game.”

An 82-game starter last season, Morris is averaging just 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting .386 from the field. It’s a far cry from last season, when he looked like an emerging player with 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting .465 from the floor.

A tumultuous offseason of trade demands following the Suns shipping his twin brother Marcus to the Detroit Pistons made things a little uncomfortable, but that all seemed to blow over once Markieff joined the team for training camp.

His struggles, Hornacek believes, come from being a little depressed over his brother not being around anymore.

“I think there’s a little bit of it, and we’ve talked about it,” Hornacek said of his player’s emotional state. “If he can put that aside, and it’s hard to do — he’s trying, I can’t blame the guy at all for the effort.”

The coach pointed out how Morris has been very good in practices, even over this recent stretch when he has not been seeing game time.

“If he can just get that last little bit out of his head, whatever it is, I think he can get back to playing well, but if he doesn’t then it’s hard to play at 100 percent and play your best when you have those thoughts in your head,” he said.

And if the Suns ultimately decide Morris will not be able to get over whatever it is that’s holding him back, those trade rumors could at some point become a reality. One would think it’s difficult to market Morris if he’s not on the floor performing, but Hornacek said there is no directive from above to play — or not play — the forward.

“We’re a group, not only Ryan (McDonough) but Robert (Sarver) will talk about things,” he said. “So it’s not just on one person saying this or that. It’s kind of a group discussion and we all try to figure out what’s best for the team.”

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