Feb. 20, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris during game against the Washington Wizards at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Wizards 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
The Suns took the court for their first taste of Summer League action in Las Vegas while Markieff Morris played great, the bulk of the highlights were off the court.
The first day of Summer League action was an eventful one on and off the court for the Phoenix Suns. On the court in Las Vegas the team took on the New York Knicks as both teams were just getting their feet wet this week.
It was supposed to be the debut of the Suns new pick-and-roll duo of Kendall Marshall and Markieff Morris, but the teams top draft pick was not in action. Marshall did not play due to contract issues that have been resolved and he will be in action for the final four games this summer.
With the spotlight off of Marshall it was Morris who shined like a star for the Suns. He played more inside than he did last season where he was working on being more efficient on the block. "Scoring on the post and scoring in different ways," Morris after the game on what he is working on this summer. "I just take my time and let the game come to me."
That was evident as he has been working this offseason to date with Elston Turner and Mark West on more of a classic low post game offensively and defensively. It is a little easier in the Summer League against fringe NBA talent to score more inside, but of Morris' 21 points only three came from deep.
For big chunks of last season Morris lived on the perimeter and most of that was by design, but with the new changes in Phoenix adding that versatility will be key.
Head Coach Dan Majerle is focused on improving Morris in the paint, "I am going to go to him a lot this year especially in the post and he is taking it to heart." Majerle is a major three-point shooter which is going to help the development of Morris along with Turner and West.
The game itself was uneventful as the Suns took care of business shorthanded against the Knicks 99-74 with a balanced attack.
Outside of Morris the play of Diante Garrett, Deshawn Sims, and Erving Walker was worth noting. Each played a little over 25 minutes and brought a different dimension to the team. Garrett was in full playmaking mode setting up his teammates for easy buckets as he finished with 10 assists with only 2 turnovers. That is an impressive stat especially in Summer League as players are normally reckless trying to get theirs in and make SportsCenter.
Sims and Walker filled it up as scorers from deep and with efficiency. As a four Sims showed versatility scoring inside and out as he had done back in Michigan. The big man knocked down two deep balls and scored inside. He finished with 16 points overall as a compliment scorer to Morris. When Walker came in the game he played with the same speed and energy he did at Florida. The shiftiness and speed allowed Walker to score 12 points on a perfect 5-5 from the field.
With the point guard position taking shape as Goran Dragic and Marshall the Suns may not have room for another big point guard with a pass-first mentality like Garrett. He should find a spot on an NBA roster after the way he has played the last two seasons.
Adding any of the Summer League players to the active season roster may be a stretch. The Suns need shooters and wings, but they somehow found a way to bring along numerous point guards and big men. It will be interesting to see if a player like Sims can make the team or if this was all for Morris and Marshall to gain continuity.
Off the court the Suns surprised most of the NBA by not only putting in a bid on Luis Scola (Houston) after he was amnestied, but putting in the winning bid. Scola is a talented low post scorer that does everything that Morris is trying to learn in his second year in the NBA. The veteran can provide to be a lynch pin as the starter for now while helping the young big man gradually come along verses casting him into the fire.
The move was a bit of a shock for Morris after the game, "yeah (laughing)? He is a great addition to our team and I am going to welcome him with open arms." Obviously this means Morris and Scola will be battling for playing time, but could potentially play together in smaller line-ups and situations.
After just one game in Summer League the Suns have a win, a new power forward, a new point guard, and a little more controversy than they did when the day began. What will be on tap for the July 17th game against the Cleveland Cavaliers?