Markieff Morris, New Leaf for Keef — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Markieff Morris, New Leaf for Keef — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews

By
Updated: November 1, 2016

The 2016-17 NBA season is almost here … and upon last check, they are still going to allow allowing the Washington Wizards to participate. So the TAI crew is firing up the pixel makers and churning out player previews, or rather, “Wizards Player Haters’ Previews” — which is not to say that we are hating on the players or the game, but that this season’s version of the Wizards is ready to hate on all those who stand in their way. Up now: Markieff Morris, via Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis)

morrisbio

The Washington Wizards had a memorable—for all the wrong reasons—encounter with Markieff Morris when he visited last season as a member of the Phoenix Suns in early December. The Wizards prevailed over Morris’ Suns, but what stood out from the ugly victory was Markieff’s erratic behavior at the end of the contest. Kyle Weidie detailed the weirdness:

Late in the game, the Suns are down 106-108 with around eight seconds left. Brandon Knight is about to shoot his free throw (got fouled in the act behind the line). He missed the first, which would cost him and the Suns a chance to tie the game. Knight, it appeared, intended to miss so that maybe his team could get the rebound and tie the game. So, the players lined up. Right before the shot, Ryan Hollins went across the lane to box out Markieff Morris and then Morris slid across the lane to box out Otto Porter and Hollins followed Morris. Mirza Teletovic was caught in the middle of this rinse, wash, repeat cycle. Eventually, Morris, who was second to move and thus without the advantage, used a dose of belligerence to draw a delay of game, which was a technical foul, since Phoenix had already receive a delay of game warning.

The Wizards, Bradley Beal specifically, missed the technical, then Knight missed the third free throw (on purpose), and Beal got the rebound. Garrett Temple then went 1-for-2 on free throws and Eric Bledsoe missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

This bizarre display encapsulated the rough beginning to the 2015-16 season for Morris. He was bitter at the Phoenix organization for trading away his twin brother, Marcus, to Detroit and publicly demanded a trade. When Markieff was not shipped out but rather fined for his comments, he publicly spat with his coach and teammates. Morris needed a change of scenery and he became a commodity at the NBA trade deadline. Due to his reputation, most league observers thought he could be had at a discount. However, the Wizards took no chances and trumped all offers at the last minute by offering a top nine protected 2016 first-round pick, along with Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair, for the services of the 6-10 forward.

From Lightning Rod to Model Citizen in D.C.

The Morris trade ignited a polarizing debate amongst Wiz fans. The talented Kansas Jayhawk product filled a need at the 4, had a cap friendly contract through the 2017-18 season, was only 28 years old, and could possibly help the Wizards make a push to earn a playoff berth.

Detractors believed a first round pick was too steep for a malcontent who was also facing felony charges for assault. And even if the team succeeded in earning a 7- or 8-seed, they would likely be quickly bounced from the post-season, so why bother? Considering the franchise took great lengths to distance themselves from the tragic end of the Arenas era and the embarrassing antics of JaVale/Blatche/Swaggy P, giving up a valuable asset for a player with so many red flags seemed to go against the positive image they wanted to sell to the fan base. But Wizards players Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, who previously played with Morris in Phoenix, gave glowing recommendations of the move. And management obviously decided the risk was worth it.

Morris assimilated himself nicely into the starting lineup and avoided the kinds of public blow-ups that plagued him in Phoenix. While he was not able to lead the team back to the playoffs, few would blame him for the team’s failed post-season run.

His best game as a Wizard came when it mattered the most. With Washington facing postseason elimination in Detroit and John Wall sitting out with an injured knee, Morris scored 29 points in a 112-99 defeat. Despite the loss, the game foreshadowed what a tremendous asset Morris could be for this team. He took big guys off the dribble and backed smaller defenders down for buckets. That type of versatility at the 4 spot had been non-existent throughout the Wall era.

An Unlikely Mentor.

Now that he has become more adjusted to his new team, Morris surprisingly has became a mentor. Multiple players at media day mentioned his leadership at the player-organized mini-camp in Los Angeles. Morris acknowledged taking some of the new guys under his wing: “Tomas (Satoransky) is a great guy, rest of the young fellas, just welcome them into the NBA, be a vet they need me to be,” said Morris.

In interviews, Morris comes across shy but he is not afraid to voice strong opinions. He called Kevin Durant out for joining Golden State. And he unloaded to the media about the reported tension between Wall and Beal.

“What you can’t do is listen to what the outsiders are saying. From when I came, everything was good. Everyone is not always going to see eye to eye on the court, it happens. But that was totally pushed out of proportion. Those guys are good friends. They sit right next to each other on every flight. So there is some type of relationship … The media is going try to push anything out of proportion. They see guys arguing, ‘oh yeah, they don’t like each other’ but in the basketball game, there a lot of emotions going on. Sometimes, you are going to have arguments.”

Morris, who has first-hand experience being in the middle of media firestorm, offered up advice to Washington’s backcourt mates. “It is foolishness. You let the media play with that. Just move on from it.”

Looking Forward.

Markieff plays a key role on Washington’s front line.  There are few players on this squad that can create their own shot, and Morris is one of them.

“I worked alot on my game, just expanding it—being able to be a two-way player, guard multiple positions, being able to make plays. There is going to be a lot of times where I’m going to need to make plays for the team. I just want to be that playmaker and that guy.”

In keeping with the current offensive trend in the NBA, Morris also wants to expand his range beyond the 3-point line. While only a 32.5 percent career 3-point shooter, Morris was 5-for-12 from downtown in the preseason and is 3-for-5 in the first two regular season games.

Morris has also displayed good chemistry with Gortat on high-low passes and the two big men space the floor a lot better than the previous Gortat-Nene front-line. He is a willing rebounder and could even be an effective 5 man in small-ball lineups.

If there is one area of concern, it’s Markieff’s occasional lack of composure. Morris plays with a rugged emotion on the court—Gortat called him “spicy” for a reason. It will be a challenge for this coaching staff to channel Morris in productive ways—less anger toward the refs for bad calls and more against opponents. Morris also tends to drift in team defensive schemes and fouls too much, but he can be a solid one-on-one defender.

Morris believes there is a recipe for the Wiz to return to the postseason.

“Buying into Coach Brooks style of play, philosophy of the team. He knows best. We just have to put it together the right way. Our first five is going to be OK. We had the same five last year. We just have to continue to get better. We gotta figure the second unit out. Once we do, be a playoff team.”

The health of Wall and Beal, along with a consistent Otto Porter will be crucial in order for the Wizards to compete in the Eastern Conference. Morris is also high on the must-contribute watch list.

Another Cowboys Fan.

John Wall received a lot of flak for wearing an Emmitt Smith Cowboys jersey on the sideline at the Dallas and Washington football game last month. Morris is also a Cowboys fan and attended the same game, tweeting out a photo from a club level suite. I quizzed him about rooting for the rival of the Skins. He did not back down.

“Negative reaction that you get from the fans, we are fans just like you guys are fans, you can’t get mad us for having a favorite team. I understand that we are in the city of Washington, D.C., it is no disrespect to the Washington fans, but I am Cowboys fan regardless of who likes Washington or not. I am always going to be a Cowboys fan. I don’t have nothing to say to that. You guys are going to be mad, alright, still going to continue to be a Cowboys fan, how it goes.”

Morris grew up in Philly so how did he become a Cowboys fan?

“When I was a younger, my brother always liked the Eagles, Cowboys was their rival, so I had to choose the Cowboys to be different so I ran with it.”

Pictures.

marfieff morris, washington wizards, preview, adam mcginnis, truth about it, marcus morris

marfieff morris, washington wizards, preview, adam mcginnis, truth about it, marcus morris

marfieff morris, washington wizards, preview, adam mcginnis, truth about it, otto porter

 

Clips.

Social Media.

Twitter: @Keefmorris

Instagram: keefmorris11


Adam McGinnis on EmailAdam McGinnis on FacebookAdam McGinnis on FlickrAdam McGinnis on GoogleAdam McGinnis on TwitterAdam McGinnis on Youtube
Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.




  • DCWiz Fan

    Just want to say to all the TAI writers how much I appreciate their analysis and style. Your stuff is not as regular as I’d like, but almost always love the pieces you put up. Comments doesn’t seem to be a thing on the site, but did want to post a salute to the writers. Thanks.

    • Hey there, thanks a lot for stopping by and taking time to drop a note—it really means a lot. We have a great crew of diverse options here at TAI and are proud of it. And no, commenting is not really a thing here—seems like more discussion and interaction happens on Twitter these days—but we are always glad to get comments and respond to them. Cheers! -Kyle

    • Conor

      Thanks so much for the comment. Really appreciate it.