76ers

Philadelphia natives Marcus and Markieff Morris acquitted of assault

ap-nba-marcus-markieff-morris.jpg
AP Images

Philadelphia natives Marcus and Markieff Morris acquitted of assault

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix jury acquitted NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris in their aggravated assault trial Tuesday.

The Morris brothers have been on trial for the past two weeks on charges that they helped three other people beat 36-year-old Erik Hood in January 2015 outside a high school basketball game in Phoenix.

At that time, the 28-year-old brothers played for the Phoenix Suns. Marcus now plays for the Boston Celtics and Markieff is with the Washington Wizards.

Defense attorneys Timothy Eckstein and James Belanger patted the brothers on the back as the verdict was read. The Morris twins hugged their attorneys after the jury was led out of the courtroom.

"From the beginning we expected them to acquit but just putting this time here," Marcus Morris said outside Maricopa County Superior Court.

Both players have missed the start of the NBA preseason because of the trial.

Another defendant, Gerald Bowman, also was found not guilty on two counts of aggravated assault. Two other co-defendants pleaded guilty to the charges on Sept. 13.

Hood did not attend court to hear the verdict read.

Jurors got the case Monday afternoon. They began hearing testimony Sept. 18.

Belanger said in closing arguments that the case was tainted by Hood's mentor trying to solicit two witnesses to implicate the Morris brothers for a cash payment in return.

Two witnesses testified about the mentor's attempt and their refusal to lie. They both went to break up the fight and placed the Morris twins near the site but not as part of the altercation.

Belanger said he thought the defense had a very good case without that but when the jury found out "it was the prism that they had to look at everything else through."

Prosecutor Daniel Fisher had urged jurors to convict the brothers, saying Marcus Morris kicked Hood in the head and Markieff Morris acted as an accomplice because "they had an axe to grind" with him.

Defense attorneys pressed Hood during his testimony about his financial motives in the case and his knowledge of the NBA players' substantial financial assets.

They also repeatedly said Hood lied to police nine times when he said both twins were involved in the assault. Hood later changed his statement to say Markieff did not beat him but had been in the vicinity.

Eckstein, the lawyer for Marcus Morris, said during closing arguments that Hood knew he had to "double down on Marcus" beating him because the case wouldn't be worth anything without one of the brothers involved.

Hood testified he wanted justice for the beating that left him with a broken nose and other injuries.

He said he has known the Morris brothers since their youth basketball days, but they had a falling out in 2011.

Hood testified that his relationship with the twins became strained because of a misinterpreted text message he sent their mother. But he said there was nothing "improper" happening with him and their mother.

The Morris brothers said they felt relieved and were ready to get back to their teams.

"We put our faith in our lawyers," Markieff Morris said.

Markelle Fultz likely to start season on bench for Sixers

Markelle Fultz likely to start season on bench for Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown likely will bring Markelle Fultz in off the bench to start the season. 

The No. 1 pick missed the majority of the preseason because of soreness in his right knee and right shoulder. Fultz played a total of 47 minutes over just two games. He practiced Sunday.

When asked if Fultz will start, Brown said “I don’t believe so” and noted the lack of in-game experience. The Sixers face the Wizards’ dangerous backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal in the regular season opener Wednesday. 

“He hasn’t played much basketball in preseason,” Brown said Sunday. “He’s been out for a while. He hasn’t been with our group. I think the decision like, do you put him into the fire right away and have him play against starting NBA defensive players, especially with the little foundation that he has? I don’t think that’s smart.”

Fultz, last season’s Pac-12 leading scorer, struggled offensively in the preseason games in which he did play. He shot 2 for 13 from the field (0 for 3 from three) and scored four points in the opener against the Grizzlies. Facing the Celtics, he scored 12 points off of 5 for 11 shooting from the field (no three-point attempts).

“At the end of the day, I want to do whatever I’ve got to do to help my team win,” Fultz said. “So if that’s coming off the bench, I’m fine with that. Just contribute any ways I can.”

All the while, the change in his shot form has been in the spotlight. He missed the second preseason game against the Celtics because of shoulder soreness. He previously described the injury as ongoing and did not point to a specific moment of injury (see story). Fultz was sidelined for the final two preseason games with right knee soreness.

“My shoulder is bothering me, so that’s the reason my shot’s like that,” Fultz said. “At the end of the day, I’m not going use that as an excuse, like I said before. But my shoulder is the main reason why my shot’s doing that.”

The Sixers traded up to draft Fultz first overall largely because of his ability to complement Ben Simmons off the ball. The pair hasn’t played together much since then, though. Jerryd Bayless started four of the five preseason games at shooting guard alongside Simmons.

“You have a plan in your head. It’s deviated from the summer, lots of it because of his injuries and lack of availability,” Brown said. “But we’ll all sort of see how I use him and how he uses himself. It will all be driven out of, how do we develop him and still win games?”

Fultz’s role could change throughout the season. The Sixers will work through his minutes, guard pairings and ball-handling responsibilities. These considerations will be based on Fultz’s health, matchups and the availability of his teammates, all the while trying to be successful. 

“The balance of development and winning is a slippery slope because he hasn’t played basketball and he’s really had an erratic preseason,” Brown said. “How we are fair in delivering him to an NBA court and situations that I put him in and volume of minutes he gets with the notion he’s the first player chosen, we understand the microscope, the pedestal that he is on. But the reality with all those other things that I just said are also my responsibility to figure it all out. Ultimately, you’ve got play and develop him and take some hits so that he can grow with us.”

Brett Brown says Joel Embiid on track to practice Monday, play Wednesday

Brett Brown says Joel Embiid on track to practice Monday, play Wednesday

CAMDEN, N.J. — There was injury news that prompted a gasp from Sixers fans followed by a projection by Brett Brown that caused a sense of relief.

Joel Embiid did not participate in Sunday's practice because of a left ankle sprain and continuing left knee rehabilitation.

Brown does, however, expect Embiid will practice Monday and be available for the regular season opener Wednesday.

Embiid went through individualized training Sunday. Following the conclusion of practice, he worked on his shot — barefoot.

Embiid took spills during the preseason, including during Friday’s finale against the Heat. While he has been working on his landings, Embiid still plays physical basketball. He thrives on drawing contact, as evidenced by the 18 free throws he attempted in his debut last Wednesday.

“I'm going to live at the foul line," Embiid said after his debut last week.

Embiid scored 22 points and recorded seven rebounds against the Nets followed by five points and seven boards against the Heat. He underwent season-ending left knee surgery in March and has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 27.