The Suns are reportedly in serious talks with other teams about trading disgruntled power forward Markieff Morris and according to Marc Stein of ESPN, head coach Jeff Hornacek may follow him out the door.
Phoenix (12-20) is just 5-15 in their last 20 games and are coming off an embarrassing 111-104 loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers (2-30) on Saturday. The Suns were down by 14 to the Sixers after the first quarter, and while they came back and took the lead midway through the third, Philadelphia built its lead to 16 in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously it’s probably a low point for us,” Hornacek told the Associated Press following the 76ers game. “This last stretch I think we lost a little bit of confidence. We’re going to keep working and try to get to the point where we’re winning some of these games.”
Stein reported that Hornacek is on the hot seat because their is growing belief in the Suns organization that the team is no longer listening to him. Hornacek is in the final year of his original four-year contract after Phoenix declined to exercise his option for the 2016-17 season.
Hornacek led Phoenix to a surprising 23-game improvement during his first season on the bench during the 2013-14 campaign as the Suns went 48-34. Despite the improvement, Phoenix missed the playoff and the team then went 39-43 last year.
The Suns had designs on contending for a playoff spot this year after signing center Tyson Chandler during the summer. Phoenix is by no means out of the playoff chase, as the Suns are 2 ½ games out of the eighth playoff spot, but they are behind three other teams.
Phoenix is fifth in the NBA in scoring at 103.7 points a game, though the Suns have only topped the 100-point plateau nine times in their last 16 games. However, Phoenix seems to have bigger problems then scoring problems.
The Suns, who have made just 39.8 percent of their shots over the last three games, are on a four-game losing streak and have lost six of seven. And now, Phoenix will be without leading scorer and top playmaker Eric Bledsoe for the foreseeable future as he tore his meniscus in his left knee against the Sixers. Bledsoe will have surgery on Tuesday, according to USA Today Sports.
The Suns also have serious defensive problems as they rank near the bottom of the league in defensive field goal percentage (last), three-point defensive percentage (27th), points per possession (28th) and points per game (27th). That’s not all of Phoenix’s problems, as we haven’t delved into the Markieff Morris mess, dissected the team’s turnover problems (16.2 turnovers a game) or the fact the team is tied for the second-most technical with 30.
Speaking of Morris, the Suns appear to have had their fill of the disgruntled power forward. The 6-foot-10 power forward served his first of two game suspension for throwing a towel at Hornacek against Philadelphia.
Morris is definitely available and Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops has indicated that the Houston Rockets are very interested. Scotto said that the teams have discussed a deal involving Morris for Corey Brewer and Terrence Jones. Nothing appears to be imminent as Brewer is ineligible to be traded until January 15.
Morris, who is extremely talented, has struggled with his role after having a breakout season last year. He possesses good shooting touch, and a good face-up, though he struggles with shot-selection, often taking tough shots.
Morris has yet to post a double-double and is averaging 10.8 points along with 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 23.5 minutes a game. He is also struggling with his shot as he has made 37.9 percent of his attempts from the field and 34.0 percent of his three-point attempts.
Phoenix has a tough three game stretch to end the calendar year as the Suns host Cleveland on Monday before traveling to San Antonio on Dec. 30 and Oklahoma City on Dec.31. Phoenix is 4-12 away from the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
With Bledsoe out, rookie Devin Booker scored a career-high of 19 points, on 6-of-11 shooting, will likely start at shooting guard. That means Ronnie Price will have a bigger role backing up Brandon Knight and forces the team to put second-year point guard Bryce Cotton on the active list. Cotton averaged 5.3 points in 15 games as a rookie last year with the Suns. Sonny Weems and Archie Goodwin will also see time at the shooting guard position.
Update: It appears that Hornacek will have the opportunity to attempt to turn things around as Phoenix has decided to fire assistants Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski. As a result of the firings, the team will promote Nate Bjorkgren and Earl Watson to the bench.
By deciding to shake up its bench, Phoenix appears to be giving Jeff Hornacek one more chance to turn this team around— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 28, 2015
[AP Photo/Rick Scuteri]