For a player who has such a bad reputation after a tumultuous season with the Phoenix Suns, Markieff Morris draws nothing but high praise from those who know him well in ex-teammates -- and soon-to-be teammates once again -- Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley.
Morris was traded Thursday after a season in which he was suspended for throwing a towel in his coach's face on the bench and grabbing a teammate during a timeout during a game just two weeks ago. It all was a culmination of anger he had toward the organization that he claimed lied to him about personnel moves involving his brother, Marcus, who was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Markieff Morris, who is playing at less than his value at about $8 million per year because he opted to stay to play with his brother, never could get past it.
"That's blown out of proportion. This guy is emotional," said Gortat, who was traded here from Phoenix before the start of the 2013-14 season. "I'm not saying he's a quiet kid. He's kind of a spicy kid. Kind of an aggressive kid. From time to time he's aggressive but listen, this is what we need."
Morris is expected to emerge as the starting power forward for the Wizards (24-28), who beat the Utah Jazz 103-89 later Thursday. He's 6-10 but undersized in terms of strength in the low post but he gives them a better option than Dudley when it comes to post-up chances.
"Certain teams switch on us and Dud is not really going to be a post-up guy. They're able to switch on him in pick-and-rolls," point guard John Wall said. "(Morris) is able to post up, can rebound the ball, can finish around the paint and can make plays for us."
The fire and mean streak that the Wizards tend to lack, Morris has enough of each for everybody.
"He's an unselfish guy. He knows the game. He's going to move the ball the way we move the ball. I'm sure he's hungry," Gortat said. "He's going to come face-to-face with somebody else, if they're going to (hard) foul me or John or anybody else, he's going to challenge the guy face-to-face. This is what we need, a guy who's down for his teammate and he's going to fight."
Gortat didn't mean that literally, of course. Coach Randy Wittman likes players with a bit of a mean streak anyway.
"In talking to the people that I talked to, I got nothing but rave reviews that he would be a good piece for us," Wittman said. "I talked to a lot of people I have a great respect for, that were very close to him at Phoenix."
Dudley has known Morris since his 2011 rookie season and has remained close to him since. Always blunt, while Dudley defended Morris as a person he wasn't fond of his reckless behavior toward Phoenix's coaching staff or his teammates.
"He's a good kid. When I was there, he had no problems," said Dudley, who spent two seasons with Morris. "He had one problem obviously this year when he had the situation where he felt disrespected, felt betrayed. I'm not going to defend him. Some of the stuff he did was unprofessional. But that being said, I guarantee you we'll have no problems with him here. He is a good friend of mine. I usually hang out with him in the summer time. It's easy for me to mentor him.
"His mom lives 35-45 minutes away from here. I've already talked to him. He's a starting power forward. ... We need another body, another athlete. From the time he gets here, he's going to be motivated to show people he's not that player (he was in Phoenix). He's got a fresh start. Anytime you've got John Wall on your team, it's going to make it a lot easier."
Gortat is about results was Washington struggles to re-establish itself as a serious team to be reckoned with come playoff time. They've got 30 games left in the regular season, including Friday vs. the Detroit Pistons, to change perceptions.
"You're looking for a basketball player who is going to help you win basketball games," he said, "and he's going to do that."