The Morris twins were reunited for a night, Friday night in Washington. After the Philadelphia natives, University of Kansas products and four-year NBA veterans spent their entire lives together, the separation came suddenly last July when the Suns shipped Marcus to the Pistons.
That left Markieff, now with the Wizards, alone to fume in Phoenix. Marcus handled the parting with far less public outrage, not that Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations knew that would happen.
"I didn't have any idea," Van Gundy said before Detroit and Washington met at Verizon Center. "We just knew that we liked Marcus. He was a good player, a professional guy, hard worker."
While identical in appearance, Markieff was the more prominent player during their first four NBA seasons, though Marcus was hardly a slouch. The power forward averaged career-highs last season in scoring (10.4), rebounds (4.8), assists (1.6) and minutes (25.2).
Through 54 games with the Pistons this season, his numbers are even better. He entered Friday averaging 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 36.2 minutes. Despite Friday's loss, Detroit (27-28) needs six wins to surpass last season's total.
Meanwhile, Markieff Morris' stats plummeted, as did the Suns' record. Phoenix entered the All-Star break 14-40 and on its second head coach of the season. Multiple in-game incidents highlighted Markieff's season for all the wrong reasons. The contentious vibe, one not experienced in Detroit, eventually led to Thursday's trade.
"We never had any problems from our end with it," Van Gundy said. "I mean, Marcus was upset when it happened, upset at Phoenix, but it never had any effect on what we were doing in Detroit. He was a real professional."
That's the tact Markieff plans on taking in Washington, where he was reunited with former teammates. Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley spoke highly of Morris following the deal.
"You know, it’s just guys that actually know me, and not on the outside looking in," Morris said. "Guys that I’ve actually played with and been in the locker room with. Things happen. It’s in my past. All I can do is move forward and learn from it. I’m happy to do it. And getting compliments from those guys means a lot. We’re good friends, we keep in touch. They know me as a person."
Now Morris, who scored six points in 22 minutes, and the Wizards must adjust on the fly. Following Friday's win, only 29 games remain and Washington remains outside the playoff picture. So does Detroit, which made its own All-Star moves, notably adding forward Tobias Harris from Orlando. Harris led the Pistons with 21 points in the wire-to-wire loss.
"It's just a learning thing," Van Gundy said of incorporating new players at this point in the season. "You have to take practice time to do some things which takes your practice time away from other things. We have not been playing well defensively. I would have liked to spend a lot of time on the defensive end of the floor. We had to spend more time on offense then we liked just to be organized. That's all part of it."