Marcus Morris

Philadelphia natives Marcus and Markieff Morris acquitted of assault

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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.

NBA Notes: Celtics trade Avery Bradley, pick to Pistons for Marcus Morris

NBA Notes: Celtics trade Avery Bradley, pick to Pistons for Marcus Morris

DETROIT -- One of the biggest questions facing the Detroit Pistons this offseason was what they would do with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

On Friday, they replaced him.

The Pistons traded forward Marcus Morris to Boston in exchange for guard Avery Bradley and a second-round draft pick in 2019. Bradley's arrival gives the Pistons a replacement for Caldwell-Pope, who had been a restricted free agent. Detroit has now renounced the rights to Caldwell-Pope.

Bradley averaged 16.3 points per game last season for the Celtics, but Boston is adding All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and moving on from Bradley. Morris averaged 14 points for Detroit.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge released a statement thanking Bradley for his contributions.

"It's no secret that Avery had been one of my favorite players," Ainge said. "Avery did a lot of the dirty work and often didn't get the recognition that he deserved, but our coaches, staff, his teammates, and our fans who watched him play every night appreciated what a special player and person he is."

Bradley was the longest-tenured member of the Celtics, bridging the gap from the era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that won the 2008 NBA title. Picked 19th overall in the 2010 draft, he developed into one of the league's best defenders, making the All-Defensive second team in 2013 and first team in 2016.

Detroit, which missed the playoffs last year, can slot Bradley into the backcourt alongside point guard Reggie Jackson. Bradley, who turns 27 in November, is older than the 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope, but he's also been a better shooter from 3-point range, finishing at 39 percent last season.

The Pistons lose Morris, who has been a steady veteran and a mainstay in the starting lineup over the past two seasons. Detroit has another solid wing player in Tobias Harris, and the Pistons drafted sharp-shooting Duke guard Luke Kennard in the first round (see full story).

Pacers: Team adds help to backcourt by signing Collison
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers have signed free agent Darren Collison.

Terms of the deal were not released Friday amid reports it is a two-year contract worth $20 million.

The point guard returns to a team he played for from 2010-12. Collison averaged 11.9 points and 5.0 in 139 games during his first stint with the Pacers.

Since being taken with 21st overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, Collison has career averages of 12.7 points and 4.8 assists.

He joins a backcourt that will be led by Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson The Pacers are rebuilding after trading four-time All-Star Paul George to Oklahoma City and losing point guard Jeff Teague in free agency.

Indiana also waived forward Rakeem Christmas.

Hornets: Walker played big role in landing Carter-Williams
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When All-Star Kemba Walker approached Hornets general manager Rich Cho about signing free agent Michael Carter-Williams, Cho said he couldn't help but lend an ear.

"Anytime your best player is endorsing another player and is excited about acquiring another player you have to listen," Cho said.

The Hornets officially signed Carter-Williams to a one-year, $2.7 million contract on Friday, filling a need at backup point guard behind Walker, who's coming off his best season. The Hornets also envision the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams playing alongside Walker at times as an off guard in certain situations, similar to how they used Jeremy Lin and Walker together two seasons ago during a run to the playoffs.

Carter-Williams' upside remains a bit of an unknown.

He was named the NBA's rookie of the year in 2014, but has been traded twice since and has struggled at times with injuries.

He hasn't come close to matching the 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists he averaged as a rookie for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers traded Carter-Williams to Milwaukee midway through his second season. The Bucks later traded him to Chicago where he averaged just 6.6 points last season while starting a career-low 19 games.

Heat: McRoberts shipped to Mavs to free cap space
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat have traded oft-injured forward Josh McRoberts to the Dallas Mavericks for center A.J. Hammons and a 2023 second-round draft pick.

The move frees much-needed salary cap space for Miami, which owed McRoberts just over $6 million for next season. McRoberts was limited to 81 games with the Heat in the last three seasons.

Hammons is set to make $1.3 million.

Both players got to the NBA out of Carmel High in Carmel, Indiana. McRoberts graduated from Carmel; Hammons left there and transferred to Oak Hill in Virginia for his junior and senior seasons.

Dallas would become McRoberts' seventh team. He played for Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando, Indiana and Charlotte before Miami (see full story).

11 years after tragic death, Philly hoops star Danny Rumph's heart still beats on and off the court

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Left: Viola "Candy" Owens, Danny Rumph's mother, and Danny Rumph Foundation director of events Mike Morak. Right: Houston Rockets superstar James Harden (Photo Credit: MadOptics)

11 years after tragic death, Philly hoops star Danny Rumph's heart still beats on and off the court

By trade, Mike Morak is a sports marketer. The Mount Airy native spends his professional hours promoting his company’s basketball products to teams and programs around the country, sometimes traveling from one corner of the U.S. to another and back.

But here he was, shortly before midnight last Monday evening, perched yet hunched atop a random stairwell in La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena, both emotionally and physically drained, with beads of sweat slowly dripping from his brow onto the rubber covering the steps below.

And he didn’t even play in the night’s main event that finished an hour or so before in front of a raucous, jam-packed crowd in Olney that included the likes of Sixers prodigy Joel Embiid, head coach Brett Brown and even Pro Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson.

“A lot of people don’t think I run this,” Morak said while peering out toward La Salle’s darkened campus through the long window below, enjoying one of the first chances all day he had to sit down. “They don’t know who does this. I like to try and sit in the background and have some fun, but, as you see, that’s not always as easy as it sounds.”

Morak doubles as the director of events for the Danny Rumph Foundation, which honors its namesake, a former Philly high school (Parkway High) and Western Kentucky University star. On Mother's Day in 2005, Rumph tragically died from a heart condition that led to sudden cardiac arrest during a summer pick-up game at Mallery Recreation Center in Mount Airy. He was just 21 years old.

Morak was a close personal friend of Rumph’s from when they spent their days as young teenagers playing in leagues and in pick-up games at Mallery.

“Danny was always the coolest guy,” Morak said. “I remember he had some cool Polo socks on all the time. So he was always one of the best dressed kids.

“Every day after high school, we used to go to the gym and work out together and play on a bunch of rec teams and some tournament teams together. There was a group of us who used to play at Mallery playground all the time. We liked to call ourselves the Mallery Boys — just a group of kids who are still really good friends to this day. All from the same Mount Airy/Germantown neighborhood.”

Morak is also the brainchild behind the Danny Rumph Classic, an annual Philadelphia summer basketball tournament that has grown from its infancy in 2005 at Mallery — which was later renamed Rumph Playground in remembrance — all the way to a jam-packed arena at La Salle 11 years later. Now, NBA players like Marcus Morris (Pistons) and twin brother Markieff (Wizards) take part and even Houston Rockets superstar James Harden made a cameo appearance to play in Monday’s championship game for Team FOE, which stands for Family Over Everything.

“When Danny passed away, his mother Candy and his uncle Marcus Owens put the board together for the Danny Rumph Foundation,” explained Steven Holt, the foundation’s director of data services and longtime board member. “They reached out to Mike, he came on and the tournament began.”

“After Marcus asked me to join, one of the things I realized I could do was put together a basketball event that would honor [Rumph’s] name and bring his friends and community together,” Morak said.

So Morak used his marketing background to his advantage to get the charity tournament off the ground. The first year was a success, and the event continued to grow from one year to the next. Morak realized his creation was growing quicker than he ever expected and Mallery, notwithstanding its emotional ties, just couldn’t play host anymore.

“One day during the tournament years ago, we looked out and there was no three-point line on the sides because the crowds that showed up were so large and taking up so much space,” he said.

“There were eight NBA players playing by that time. We realized we probably needed to find a bigger venue. We had a connection at Arcadia University, so we played there for a few years. We had a stint at CCP (Community College of Philadelphia). But 11 years after we started, here we are at La Salle, a major college gym in Philly.”

This year marked the first time the tournament was held at Tom Gola Arena.

The heart of the cause
Rumph’s cause of death was later attributed to a condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which caused the young basketball star to fall into sudden cardiac arrest.

“Essentially, [HCM] is often confused with 'athlete’s heart,'” explained Shawn Cameron, the head athletic trainer for Temple’s men’s basketball program.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, athlete’s heart is a non-fatal enlarging of the heart. But Cameron explained how HCM is much scarier and potentially fatal for an athlete.

“What happens with HCM is the heart has a hard time pumping blood, and the trickiest thing is that it often goes undiagnosed. ... Most people with the condition typically won’t have any symptoms and shouldn’t experience any significant problems.

“However, when you subject an athlete to an athletic, rigorous activity, they can all of a sudden develop shortness of breath, chest pain and abnormal heart rhythms. What all this can do is exacerbate the underlying condition, which is HCM.”

While you may not be familiar with the clinical term of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or even its more common initials, you’ve heard of it before if you can recall the shocking death of Philadelphia native and Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers, who died at 22 during an NCAA basketball game in 1990. Gathers’ death was later attributed to HCM.

The death of Celtics player Reggie Lewis, 26, in 1993 was another tragic ending attributed to HCM. Former Cardinal Dougherty High School and NBA star Cuttino Mobley abruptly retired in December 2008 when a physical after a trade from the Clippers to the Knicks showed signs of HCM.

But the risks of HCM are not limited to just basketball players.

San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Thomas Herrion, 23, collapsed and died in the locker room shortly after a preseason game in Denver in 2005. His heart was later found to have HCM. The 2009 death of Gaines Adams, a star defensive lineman at Clemson and No. 4 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007, was attributed to HCM. He was 26.

New York Rangers 2007 first-round pick Alexi Cherepanov, 19, collapsed and died on the bench during a KHL game in Russia in 2008. His death was also later attributed to HCM. A 2005 game between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings was halted when Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench. After Fischer survived the scary episode, he was diagnosed with HCM. Fischer, who was 25 at the time of the incident, never played another NHL game, or professional game, for that matter. He now serves as the Red Wings’ director of player development.

But those are just a few of the more notable examples.

"I’d say there’s probably fewer than 150,000 to 200,000 cases per year and one in 500 people in the U.S. probably have it undiagnosed," Cameron said. "I think the higher incidence is just more prone between 19 to maybe 35, 40 years old." 

He also added the condition can be inherited and is known to be more common in African Americans.

"The first thing to look for is shortness of breath," Cameron said. "You have to think why they would have shortness of breath and the obvious answer is they’re just out of shape. I can tell you that with Division I men’s basketball now, for example, it’s very rare when an athlete is out of shape just because how constant the preseason, in-season, postseason, summer schedule is. They’re physically taxing their bodies constantly. Another red flag is chest pain. Another sign would be during a checkup if an arrhythmia pops up. Those are the three cardinal signs. 

“What’s big nowadays is that the undiagnosed information in these athletes needs to be discovered.”

And that’s the overall goal of the Rumph Foundation and the Danny Rumph Classic tournament.

The foundation helps young athletes get access to heart screenings, buys defibrillators to put in local rec centers and gyms and provides CPR trainings aimed at the younger population.

“Every rec center in the city now has a defibrillator,” Holt proudly said. “That’s a project we’re all done with, actually. Now we’re working with big CPR programs targeted for younger people. We have a large training session coming up in a couple weeks.”

For the community, by the community
How much this year’s tournament raised remains to be seen, but with as packed as Tom Gola Arena was on Monday night, it’s sure to be a nice amount. And what’s even more impressive about that is the fact Morak and his team prefer to not do too much promotion for the event.

They do some work on social media but are proud of the fact that word-of-mouth, community efforts are the driving forces behind getting people in the seats. For example, word of Harden’s Monday cameo appearance didn’t get out until a few hours before tip-off when a picture of Harden warming up at La Salle earlier in the afternoon made its way around Instagram.

“I never tell anyone [who’s going to be here],” Morak explained. “I’ve done enough events that I don’t like to disappoint anybody. I never released anything probably until today about James. And that was just because he made it known he was here. Too many people try to get people to come to an event based off of who may play. We like people to come knowing they’re going to see high-quality basketball. You never know who’s going to show up. I think that’s part of the whole fun of this.

“It’s all totally grassroots and organic. It’s hard to describe what kind of organization and event it is because I think it’s a lot different than anything else. It’s just something that’s really homegrown. And without the fans supporting us and the players supporting us, the event wouldn’t be anything. I’m really humble about the success of the event because I understand the event is nothing without the players that want to take time out of their day to play and the fans that want to come and physically enjoy it. Without all those aspects, we couldn’t be successful.”

On-court action
As for the tournament itself, Team FOE, which featured Harden, the Morris twins, Maalik Wayns (Villanova), Dionte Christmas (Temple), Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) and Markus Kennedy (SMU) topped CANCER WHO?, 120-108, to take home its third title in the last four years.

Players on CANCER WHO? included Jason Thompson (Rider), Malik Alvin (Binghamton), Semaj Inge (Temple), Dustin Salisbery (Temple) and Anthony Harris (Miami, Fla.)

The play of the night on Monday came when Harden, who played the villain role to a crowd that embraced its homegrown Philadelphia talent, threw down a ferocious one-handed slam off an alley-oop during the game’s waning minutes.

Taylor took home the tournament’s MVP award.


What does the future hold?
Morak, who credited the Morris twins (Prep Charter High grads before they went to Kansas and then on to the NBA) for helping facilitate Harden's arrivial and supporting the tournament and Philadelphia basketball as a whole, had no clue his creation would get this big.

“It was definitely a goal to get to 11 years,” he said. “Eleven, funny enough, is Danny’s jersey number, so I wanted to get it past a decade. But it’s like who knows how far we’ll go with it?”

After this year’s turnout and success, board members know they’ve got work to do to raise the bar next year.

“That’s what we were just saying now — we don’t know," Holt said of what happens next with the tournament. “I guess when we get together for our board meeting, we’ll discuss venue. It just keeps getting bigger. But we like that we’re going to keep it in the community.

“Mike does a great job putting everything together with whatever his connections are and getting more and more guys to play. Again, it just gets bigger and bigger.”

Morak himself is one of tempered expectations. He admitted he doesn’t get too high on the success of his creation.

The main reason for that is because once one year’s tournament ends, the work on the next year’s begins almost immediately. And the workload piles higher and higher as the tournament continues to grow.

But it’s a challenge he accepts with open arms.

“Hopefully, next year, we’re able to replicate this success from tonight," he said after the tournament final. “It’s always hard to top one of the best scorers in the NBA playing. A lot of other guys who have wanted to play have reached out about playing and participating, so we just have to see where the chips may fall. I don’t like to put a level on it because I don’t want to be disappointed in what it may be. But I think if we can take tonight’s energy and move it into next year, I’ll be happy.

“We had Ben Simmons in the crowd over the weekend and A.I. tonight. Maybe one day we can get Kobe to walk in the door.”

Stars, crowds, accolades, you name it and the Rumph Classic has it these days. That thrills Morak, but just because an NBA superstar shows up or a famous person is in the stands or something trends on social media doesn’t change the purpose of the event.

The purpose will continue to be the same since that tragic Mother's Day 11 years ago, when the life of his close friend ended too soon.

"We have to save these bright, young stars," he said, "and make a difference in the community."