Marcus Morris has gone from the Suns' starting lineup to barely getting off the bench.
The second-year forward had a regular spot in the Rockets' rotation as the team's first backup at power forward when Houston traded him to Phoenix at the trade deadline for a second-round pick. At the time, it seemed like a perfect trade for Morris. He would be re-united with his twin brother Markieff, with large roles seemingly destined for both.
This larger role started to take shape less than a week after the trade. Morris seemingly solidified his spot in the Suns' rotation, getting over 20 minutes of playing time, eventually working his way into the starting lineup for six straight games, including two matchups with his former Rocket teammates. However, in his last start on March 16 against the Wizards, Morris played only 10 1/2 minutes without any foul trouble. The Suns were blown out 127-105.
In the team's next game against the Lakers, Morris chalked up a DNP- coach's decision. His playing time has been spotty, at best, since then. Outside of playing 21:48 against the Timberwolves on March 22, when Morris shot 1-9 from the floor, the forward has totaled roughly 35 minutes in eight games and has racked up three more DNPs. He did not get on the floor Sunday night in the Suns' 95-92 loss to the Hornets.
"I'm not even sure," Morris said when asked what he needed to do to get back on the floor. "I'm confused as much as you are."
He clarified that he and Suns head coach Lindsey Hunter have discussed the issue, but that it's more experimentation than anything else and that Morris is looking forward to working harder for next season. However, when Hunter was asked about the possible lineup experimentation, his answer veered in another direction.
"I think there's a lot of different variables that contribute to that," Hunter said. "New environment, new coach, new teammates, and learning through a lot of adversity. A lot of that is part of the reason - just still getting to know (Morris) as a player. And him getting to know who he is as a player and our system.
"It's nothing that he has to prove to me," Hunter continued. "It's just that we want all of our guys to play a certain way. I think he understands that. He's learning that. He'll get his opportunity to play, to prove it."
Asked to clarify what he meant when he said playing a certain way, Hunter said, "That just means to come out and play with some passion - play with an edge. Just because we're not going to the playoffs, doesn't mean anything. You should play with pride."
The change has not had much impact for the Suns' win column. Phoenix has not won a game since March 18 against the Lakers. The Suns have only won three games since March 1.
Morris averaged 8.3 points before being removed from the starting lineup. After March 16, Morris has averaged 1.7 points in the six games where he did play.
The Kansas product averaged 8.6 points in 54 games this season with the Rockets prior to the trade taking place.