Phoenix Suns

LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Morris Change Agents

Spurs marquee free agent signee LaMarcus Aldridge has departed the Wasserman Media Group to join Excel Sports Management, while the recently traded Marcus Morris has left the Creative Artists Agency, reports international journalist David Pick (Twitter links). Aldridge had previously been with Arn Tellem, who’s leaving for a job with the Pistons organization, though RealGM lists his most recent primary agent with Wasserman as having been Michael Tellem, Arn’s son. Morris, who’s been a client of Leon Rose, has expressed displeasure with swap that sent him to Detroit and separated him from twin brother Markieff Morris, who’s demanded that the Suns trade him, too. Coincidentally, the Suns made the trade in an effort to clear cap room for Aldridge, who strongly considered signing with Phoenix before choosing San Antonio instead.

Aldridge signed a maximum-salary deal with the Spurs last month after dogged pursuit from the Suns and several other teams. He was the most high-profile free agent to change teams last summer and had the power to essentially dictate his own terms and location. The 30-year-old would seemingly have little reason for discontent with Wasserman, so I’d speculate that the move is tied to Arn Tellem’s departure. Aldridge won’t be able to elect free agency again until 2018, when he can turn down a player option, so his new relationship with Excel will probably focus on business ventures outside of basketball for the time being.

Marcus Morris has little to negotiate contractually either, having signed a four-year, $20MM extension last fall that kicks in for the coming season. It’s unclear who his next representative will be, but he could seek out agents who would pressure the Pistons to engineer a deal that would reunite him with his brother, though that would be a difficult pursuit. Marcus indicated that he believes he took less than he was worth on his extension, so that may also be a factor in his decision to change agents. It’s unclear whether Markieff, a fellow Rose client, will follow suit. It’s been a mixed summer for Rose. Client J.R. Smith has languished in free agency after he turned down a player option worth nearly $6.4MM, but Jonas Valanciunas, another Rose client, just signed a four-year, $64MM extension, and Rose also represents No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns.

The former agents for both Aldridge and Morris will continue to receive the fees based on the deals that the players signed with their respective teams this year, notes former Nets executive Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Suns To Sign Terrico White

The Suns and shooting guard Terrico White have agreed to a deal, reports Shams Charania of RealGM. Agent Daniel Hazan has confirmed the pact, Charania adds. Detroit made White the 36th overall pick in 2010 and he was under contract with the Pistons for more than a year, but he never made a regular season appearance, thanks to the broken right foot he suffered in his first NBA preseason game. White, now 25 years old, has played primarily overseas since, but he’s looking to return to the NBA on what appears to be a training camp deal.

New Orleans signed White shortly after the Pistons let him go in the 2011 preseason, but the former Ole Miss standout didn’t make the regular season roster. He saw NBA summer league action in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but he didn’t sign an NBA deal in any of those years. Ironically, he’s landing this deal with Phoenix despite not having played summer league ball this year. The former Ole Miss standout spent this past season with Enisey Krasnoyarsk of Russia, where he averaged 11.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game, with 37.2% three-point shooting. He’s also played in Israel, Serbia and Turkey.

Phoenix has been carrying 13 contracts, all of them with fully guaranteed salaries this season, as our roster counts show. White would appear to have a decent chance to stick for the regular season, though the trade demand of Markieff Morris makes it hard to predict exactly what the Suns roster will look like at the start of the season.

Do you think White belongs on an NBA regular season roster? Leave a comment to let us know.

Trade Candidate: Markieff Morris

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Markieff and Marcus Morris “desperately” wanted to play together, as Lon Babby, then president of basketball operations for the Suns and now an adviser to the team, said last year shortly after the twins signed their extensions. So, perhaps the Suns should have seen Markieff’s trade demand coming when they dealt Marcus to the Pistons in July. It’s just as reasonable to suggest that the brothers should have known they’d have to play apart from each other sooner or later. Still, neither the Suns nor Markieff can be pleased with where they find themselves now, with Markieff clearly upset and Phoenix left to negotiate from a position of weakness.

Other teams know that the Suns risk poisoning their locker room if they bring their disgruntled power forward to camp, and Phoenix surely doesn’t want to be stuck paying $8MM this season to a player it tells to stay at home. Waiving Markieff would be hardly palatable, since the Suns still owe him the entirety of his four-year, $32MM extension. The stretch provision could spread those payments over a period as long as nine years, but the Suns would almost certainly rather bring back value, even pennies on the dollar, in exchange for making the contract another team’s obligation.

The trick for the other 29 teams lies in knowing just how far to push. The market for Josh Smith‘s contract was so barren last year that the Pistons reportedly would have had to attach draft assets to him if they were to have traded him, prompting Detroit to release him instead. That’s not the case with Markieff, whose deal is reasonable at $8MM a year. He’s arguably underpaid, a case that his brother tried to make last week, so it’s much more likely that an interested team will be willing to give up assets for Markieff rather than demand that the Suns give them up in a swap. Just what those assets might be is the sticking point.

The Suns would no doubt love to end up with a starting power forward in return for the one they’d be giving up. They made a shrewd addition after trading Marcus when they signed Mirza Teletovic to a one-year, $5.5MM deal a few days after trading Marcus. It’s reasonable to suspect that the Suns had an inkling that Markieff might push his way out of town when they made the signing, since Teletovic rebounds at roughly the same frequency per minute as Markieff does, and both are putative floor-stretchers. Teletovic has proven a better three-point shooter over his three-year NBA career than Markieff has in his first four years in the league, canning 36.1% of his attempts from beyond the arc, though he made just 32.1% of them last season. Still, Teletovic is the strongest candidate to start at power forward on the Suns roster other than Markieff, and the Bosnian who turns 30 next month has yet to average more than 22.3 minutes per game in an NBA season. Trade acquisition Jon Leuer, who’s never seen more than the 13.1 MPG he posted each of the last two seasons with the Grizzlies, would seemingly be next in line.

It would be exceedingly difficult for the Suns to find that sort of value for Markieff under the duress they face now, however. In hindsight, GM Ryan McDonough would have dealt him soon after he realized the team’s strong pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge had come up just short, or at least before Markieff’s discontent became public knowledge. That the Suns stood pat suggests that the market for him wasn’t as strong as McDonough would have liked, and indeed, at least one report indicated that the Suns tried to find a new home for Markieff. Reasons ranging from Markieff’s legal troubles, to the 15 technical fouls that tied him for the league lead in that category last season, to his criticism of Suns fans may have played a factor in a market that failed to yield equal on-court value in July, but offers are surely worse now than they were then.

The Suns could try to swing a deal that creates a trade exception equivalent to Markieff’s $8MM salary, one in which Phoenix wouldn’t take any salary in return. That would give the Suns a valuable weapon they could use at some point in the next 12 months, but as we saw last month with the Cavs and the Brendan Haywood contract, a de facto trade exception, the mere ability to add a quality player without having to give up salary in return doesn’t mean an attractive trade opportunity will come up. Indeed, pursuing this angle would force the Suns to find two trades instead of just one, and given the team’s playoff aspirations, it’s doubtful that McDonough wants to relinquish his starting power forward without some sort of immediate help coming back.

Phoenix may have to end up dealing from a position of strength on the wing to fix a position of weakness at power forward. The Suns have a pair of recent late first-round picks in Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren. Each carries promise and plays on a cheap rookie scale contract. A deal of either of them plus Morris would give the Suns a much better chance of landing a starting-caliber power forward. McDonough could look to Boston, where his old boss, Danny Ainge, has no shortage of quality fours, and Houston, where GM Daryl Morey is another Celtics alum and where the power forward position is also relatively well-stocked. The addition of Markieff wouldn’t resolve the logjam at the position in either Boston or Houston, unless those teams gave up multiple power forwards in return, but, his off-court trouble and petulance aside, Markieff may well offer better at the position than either of those teams have now.

The Suns are in a tough spot, to be sure. The league knows they essentially have to make a deal. But, McDonough and company can still try to make the best of a regrettable situation rather than panicking or acting on emotion. A cool-headed approach will let the Suns cut their losses and move forward, even if it requires a step back first.

Do you have a trade idea involving Markieff Morris? Leave a comment to share your scenario.

Western Notes: Morris, McGee, Grizzlies

Markieff Morris made it clear that he wants out of Phoenix and although his teammates would like him back next season, they understand the forward’s situation, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic writes.

“If he stays with us, we’d definitely love to have him,” said Brandon Knight, who signed a five-year, $70MM deal with the Suns this offseason. “Great player. I’m looking forward to playing with him. But if not, it’s a business. Like I said, I just want Markieff to be happy. That’s the main thing. I love him as a player. I love his game. So as of now, I’m excited to play for him.”

Here’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • JaVale McGee has a chance to rejuvenate his career in Dallas, as we discussed in tonight’s Community Shootaround, and Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders wonders if McGee can have the same type of career turnaround that Jermaine O’Neal enjoyed after being traded to the Pacers. O’Neal spent his first four years playing for a Blazers team that didn’t give him the best chance to succeed before coming to Indiana and developing into a legitimate MVP candidate. Hamilton argues that while the idea of McGee becoming a crucial part of a successful Mavs‘ season may sound ludicrous, the idea of O’Neal leading a title contender after sitting on Portland’s bench was just as absurd.
  • Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders believes the Grizzlies‘ offseason moves are being overlooked and the team quietly had one of the best summers in the league. Memphis was able to re-sign Marc Gasol, bring in Brandan Wright via free agency and add Matt Barnes via trade. Taylor expects this season to be a critical point regarding the team’s future. Barnes, Jeff Green, Mike Conley, Courtney Lee and Beno Udrih will all play major roles this season and will all be unrestricted free agents during the summer of 2016.

And-Ones: Heat, Holmes, Jent

No team spent more cash in trades during the 2014/15 season than the Heat did, sending a total of $2,539,424, just shy of last season’s $3.3MM limit, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders examines Conversely, the Pelicans raked in $3,299,959, just shy of the $3.3MM cap on the amount of money teams could receive via trade. Both limits have increased to $3.4MM for this season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Jonathan Holmes has a $100K partial guarantee on his minimum-salary deal with the Lakers, agent Zach Kurtin of Priority Sports tells Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links). The final season on the two-year contract becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on the roster through the fourth day after the conclusion of next year’s summer league, Pincus adds.
  • The Suns are close to completing a deal to hire Chris Jent as head coach of the Bakersfield Jam, the franchise’s NBA D-League affiliate, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. Jent had previously been an assistant on former Kings coach Michael Malone‘s staff, and he replaces Nate Bjorkgren, who was promoted to be the Suns’ player development coach, Adam Johnson of D-League Digest tweets.
  • The National Basketball Referees Association has officially ratified its new seven-year contract with the NBA, the NBRA announced (via Twitter). The new agreement takes effect this season, replacing the final year of the existing contract, and runs through 2022. “The NBA takes great pride in our world-class referee program and we are pleased to extend the league’s partnership with the NBRA for another seven years,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement regarding the new pact

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Reaction To Markieff Morris Trade Demand

The Suns are in a tough spot in the wake of a trade demand from Markieff Morris that confirmed a report from last week that he wants out of Phoenix. The deal that sent twin Marcus Morris to the Pistons last month is at the root of the discontent, but when, or if, the Suns trade the remaining Morris brother remains to be seen. Here’s the latest reaction and fallout to the news:

  • The Suns don’t intend to cave to Markieff’s trade demand, for now, but he’s told people close to him that he won’t talk to Suns front office officials and will respond only in one-word answers to coach Jeff Hornacek if he remains on the team, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. Markieff would like to play with the Rockets or Raptors but doesn’t really have a preference as long as he’s no longer playing for the Suns, Gambadoro adds.
  • Marcus told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was upset the Suns would trade him without his consent after he and his brother took what Marcus called pay cuts on their extensions last fall, but SB Nation’s Tom Ziller argues that Markieff was the only one who took less than he was worth. Even so, the Morrises had to know that the Suns would put the interests of the team above their desire to stay together, Ziller opines.
  • Andrew Joseph of The Arizona Republic makes a similar argument and points to behavior from the twins, both on an off the court, that’s been less than endearing to the team and its fans as part of the reason why the Suns traded Marcus last month.
  • Markieff can be maddening to those around him, but he’s not unpopular in the locker room, as recent comments from Archie Goodwin indicate, writes Paula Boivin of The Arizona Republic. It’s incumbent upon the Suns to see if they can reconcile with the talented power forward, and with a pattern of players showing discontent on their way out of Phoenix, including Goran Dragic‘s acrimonius exit this past February, the team must fix what appears to be a communication problem, Boivin posits.

Zoran Dragic To Play In Russia

Zoran Dragic has signed a two-year deal with Khimki of Russia, the team announced (Twitter link; translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Dragic cleared waivers from the Celtics on Wednesday following his Monday release. It’s no surprise to see the native of Slovenia return to overseas ball, as his camp pushed the Celtics to let go of him when they did so that he could sign with a European team that would give him minutes, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported this week. The Celtics reportedly intended to unload him somehow, though it appeared as though they were waiting to see if another NBA team would take him in a trade.

The Celtics stand to benefit to some degree if Dragic’s deal calls for a salary of more than the NBA one-year veteran’s minimum of $845,059, since that would allow them to invoke set-off rights to defray the $1.5MM they owe him. In any case, it’s a quick end to Dragic’s NBA excursion, one in which he saw just 4.7 minutes per game in 16 total appearances split between the Suns, who originally signed him a year ago, and the Heat, to whom Phoenix traded him along with his brother, Goran Dragic. Miami flipped him to Boston in a salary-clearing move last month.

Zoran nonetheless faces competition for playing time with Khimki, which bestowed a deal upon fellow former NBA guard Alexey Shved that reportedly makes him the highest-paid player in Europe. The team also has Mavs draft rights held player Petteri Koponen in the backcourt, as Carchia points out.

Who do you think stands a better chance of playing in the NBA again, Dragic or Shved? Leave a comment to tell us.

Markieff Morris Demands Trade

Suns forward Markieff Morris said that he feels disrespected by the way the team handled the July 9th trade of his twin and former teammate, Marcus Morris, to the Pistons, and made clear that he wants out of Phoenix prior to the 2015/16 season commencing, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays. “One thing for sure, I am not going to be there,” Markieff said this morning. “If you want to put that out there, you can put that out,” he added. “. . . I am not to going to be there at all.” The comments essentially confirm last week’s report from John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 radio that Markieff wanted off the Suns. Markieff is slated to make $8MM this coming season in the first year of his four-year, $32MM extension.

Markieff is aware that if he refuses to play, the Suns can suspend him without pay if they’re unwilling to release or trade him, Pompey adds. He is scheduled to report to training camp at the end of September. “I’ve got to show up. No question.” said Markieff. “You can’t do that. I will be a professional. Don’t get me wrong. But it won’t get that far. . . . I’m going to be out before then, should be.”

According to the forward, he’s not disappointed that the Suns traded Marcus to the Pistons, where he is likely to get more opportunities to succeed, but he is upset in how he and his brother were notified by the team, Pompey relays. The twins were informed of the deal with Detroit while on vacation out of the United States, the Inquirer scribe adds. Markieff also believes that the trade of Marcus had nothing to do with the brothers’ legal troubles, but rather to clear salary cap space for a run at unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, who instead signed with the Spurs, adds Pompey.

The 25-year-old appeared in 82 contests last season for the Suns, all as a starter, and posted averages of 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 31.5 minutes per game, with a slash line of .465/.318/.763.

Western Notes: Morris, Brase, Arthur

Markieff Morris, who has reportedly cut off contact with the Suns and supposedly wants out of Phoenix in the wake of his twin brother, Marcus Morris, being dealt to the Pistons, is considered a good teammate, according to Phoenix guard Archie Goodwin, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. In an interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio on Monday, Goodwin said, “I can’t speak too much on that situation but I can say that the last couple years I’ve been with [him], Markieff is a great guy, one of my favorite guys to be around. He’s a really positive guy to me and for everybody else. He’s always been a team-first guy. I love Markieff. I love Marcus. I hope [Markieff] stays with us. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that situation. That’s why I really can’t speak on it. I really enjoy being around him and I wish the best for him whether he is with us or another team.” Coro recently chatted with Hoops Rumors about a number of topics regarding the Suns, and you can read the full interview here.

Here’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Matt Brase is expected to be named head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets‘ NBA D-League affiliate, sources have informed Adam Johnson of D-League Digest. Brase is currently the director of player personnel for Houston, and was a former assistant coach for the Vipers, Johnson notes. Brase replaces former coach Nevada Smith, who spent two seasons with the Vipers and compiled an overall record of 60-46, including a mark of 27-23 last season, Johnson adds. The Rockets organization cut ties with Smith at the end of 2014/15.
  • Samuel Dalembert received a fully guaranteed minimum salary on his one-year deal with the Mavericks, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Dallas will pay $947,276 and the league will cover the rest of the $1,499,187 tab for the 14-year vet. The club currently has 15 guaranteed contracts and 19 players overall, Pincus adds.
  • The Nuggets used their room exception to re-sign Darrell Arthur to a two-year pact, and the forward’s deal includes a player option worth $2,940,630 for the 2016/17 season, Pincus tweets.

Chuck Myron and Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

The Beat: Paul Coro On The Suns

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last week, we spoke with Jody Genessy of The Deseret News about the Jazz. Click here to see all of the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Suns from Paul Coro the Arizona Republic. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @paulcoro, and click here to check out his stories on azcentral.com.

Hoops Rumors: How do you sense that people within the Suns organization feel about their pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge? Do they take the fact that they came as close as they did to landing him as an encouraging development that they can build on for next summer, or are they just disappointed that they didn’t get him?

Paul Coro: There is some of both. They sense that they were so close, perhaps even ahead at one point, in landing Aldridge that there was disappointment in not signing him. The team has been seeking an All-Star player for years and had an intricate plan to land one that they thought would fit their system and needs. Despite the disappointment, they are encouraged that a player of his caliber put the Suns ahead of all other suitors, except for San Antonio. As they struggle to land the team’s first major free agent signing since Steve Nash in 2004, being in the final two for Aldridge showed them that the franchise, market and team can still be a viable threat in free agency but each player and case is unique.

Hoops Rumors: The Tyson Chandler signing seemed to take everybody off guard, especially given the presence of Alex Len. Do you think the Suns still would have gone after Chandler if they didn’t think he would help them land Aldridge?

Paul Coro: The Suns say they wanted Chandler regardless of how the Aldridge pursuit turned out and they obviously had to be prepared for that outcome, given that the Spurs were such huge favorites to get Aldridge entering July. He definitely was a major piece in the plan to land Aldridge, who they knew had a great deal of respect for Chandler and wanted to play exclusively at power forward. It changed the race to have Chandler surprisingly walk in that room for the first Aldridge meeting. But on his own, Chandler addresses many of the Suns issues from last season. He addresses a major issue with lack of leadership. He is the pick-and-roll threat they have lacked with two starting guards who can run pick-and-roll and a system that needs a big man to help suck a defense into the paint to create space for perimeter shooters. He also helps the Suns’ shortcomings with interior defense and rebounding while providing a mentor to develop Alex Len, who is only 22 years old with 111 appearances.

Hoops Rumors: It doesn’t seem like there will be wholesale changes now that president of basketball operations Lon Babby has transitioned to advisory role, placing GM Ryan McDonough firmly in charge of player personnel. Still, is there a more subtle difference between the way Babby and McDonough operate that you think will have a tangible effect going forward?

Paul Coro: The basketball operation and its roles will stay much the same but it will be clearer for teams dealing with the Suns to know who is the point of contact for all things basketball. McDonough already has had his fingerprints on all aspects of the Suns’ operation and this only enhances his ability to lead the department.

Hoops Rumors: If the Morris brothers hadn’t run into legal trouble, do you think Marcus Morris would still be a Sun today?

Paul Coro: The legal issue certainly did not help Marcus Morris’ case but the Suns made the trade, in large part, to show Aldridge that they had the salary cap space to sign him without asking him to commit before they had made the moves to do so. It also addressed an issue at small forward, where the Suns were overloaded and have second-year player T.J. Warren earning a chance for more time. With Warren and P.J. Tucker, there would be little time for another player and that would have left Marcus Morris, a part-time starter, potentially on the outside of the rotation and disgruntled. Danny Granger, another small forward who had been rehabilitating in Phoenix, and Reggie Bullock, a swingman who can play some small forward, were also sent to Detroit in that trade.

Hoops Rumors: This past season was a disappointment. Which move from the 2014 offseason do you think the Suns regret the most?

Paul Coro: The signing of Isaiah Thomas was a good deal for the contract value and his production but it disrupted team chemistry by bringing in another point guard who was accustomed to starting and being a team’s primary playmaker. Goran Dragic already had seen the Suns trade for another point guard, Eric Bledsoe, and draft another point guard, Tyler Ennis, since he re-signed with the Suns. Then, Thomas entered the picture and outwardly aimed for a starting job and the status to close games. The Suns did not plan to use three point guards at once but it became a necessity to take advantage of their talent and keep each of the three point guards content, although it still left Dragic unhappy. He was the point guard who played most off the ball after being an All-NBA performer as a point guard in 2013/14, when Bledsoe missed half the season.

Hoops Rumors: It seems odd that Robert Sarver appears as willing to be aggressive as he is now in getting the Suns back to the playoffs after having been notorious for cost-cutting moves when the team was a title contender. Do you think Sarver has truly changed his approach?

Paul Coro: The franchise has matched an all-time low for playoff absence, a five-year dry spell that matches the stretch from the franchise’s second through sixth seasons. The Suns remain aggressive because they want to get back in the playoffs and do not feel like they are that far away, especially given the season they had in 2013/14. Their research also makes them not believe in the idea of tanking because of how long it takes to rebuild and the lack of a guarantee for it to work, not to mention the economic impact on the franchise in the meantime. This is a franchise that will soon be seeking public support for a new arena so a franchise-record playoff drought would not help generate that backing.

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