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Updated Oct 19, 2013 - 10:15 am

‘Big season' ahead for Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris

As he enters his third pro season, forward Markieff Morris has a message, perhaps a warning for opposing players and teams in the NBA: He's done playing nice. He's done playing cautious.

"I got to bring my mean streak back. I got to start hitting people out here," he said earlier this week.

Now before this gets taken out of context and sent to the league offices in New York (the last thing Commissioner David Stern needs in his final months on the job is to be worrying about Phoenix), know that Morris was speaking about his defense and how he can be better on that end of the floor.

"For me, it's just being more physical," he said. "That's the only way I can affect the game on the defensive end. I just got to hit people. That's just what I'm going to do. Someone tries to set a screen I'm running through it; ain't no going around nothing. I'm going through everything."

A former lottery pick, Morris has had an up-and-down career since he left Kansas after his junior year. He showed flashes of promise as a rookie but struggled when he was inserted into the starting lineup.

That may have changed, however, last season.

Perhaps reenergized after the acquisition of his twin brother Marcus, Morris averaged 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds starting the final 21 games.

Here in the preseason, he's started four of the five games and may have solidified his spot with a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes at Sacramento Thursday.

"I worked hard and it's going to show the whole season. It's a big season for me," Morris said. "Based off the last two years I think I could've had better years. I just got to show what I can do. I feel as though it's a big season for me as far as just proving myself.

"I just got to stay consistent. That's my big problem," he explained. "I felt like I had in the past years is just not being consistent with these long seasons. I just got to bring consistency every game. I got to play hard. I got to compete. I got to rebound. I got to score every game. I got to be an impact in some aspect. I got to do something."

At that power forward position, the Suns want someone who can both attack the basket and stretch the floor. Morris can be that guy, according to first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek.

"One thing with Markieff is he needs to mix it up," Hornacek said. "Channing (Frye) is going to pop (spot up and shoot) 98 percent of the time. We don't need Markieff to pop 98 percent of the time. We need Markieff to roll 75-80 percent of the time and then pop other times. I think he's very good if he rolls to the basket. He's athletic. He's got a nice little runner that he can shoot from the lane, and he's a really good passer. When he gets the ball on a roll and he attacks, he can make plays. I would rather have him roll more than (shoot) threes, but I don't have a problem every once in a while him doing it."

Morris has only attempted two threes in the preseason, hitting them both. He's shooting 55 percent overall; and more importantly, staying out of foul trouble.

That's been an issue each of Morris' first two seasons, which he believes got him thinking too much on the court and affected his game.

No more.

"I was worried about fouling so much when I was a rookie and last year," he said. "I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried about being physical, bringing my mean streak back like when I was at Kansas; just hitting people. They're going to stop screening when you start hitting them you know what I'm saying. They're going to stop trying to post you up. I'm trying to maneuver so I can stay out of foul trouble. I'm done with that. I'm just hitting everybody.

"You got to pay a toll, bottom line."

About the Author

School: Syracuse University, '96

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: December 1, 1999

Favorite sports memory: Game 7, 2001 World Series

Least-favorite sports memory: Game 1, 1988 World Series

Favorite all-time athlete(s): Larry Bird, Don Mattingly

Favorite sports movies: Hoosiers, Field of Dreams


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