It has been said over and over and has been well documented that the success of the Arizona Cardinals through almost half of the 2014 season has been the “next man up” mentality. After just one game with the Phoenix Suns, we have seen that mantra come through fir them as well.
P.J. Tucker is expected to be the starting small forward for the Suns this season just like he was in 2013. He is expected to be the player moving into space to be in position for open shots on the perimeter when Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic penetrate. He is also expected to be the man in charge of guarding the opposing teams top wing player. However, because of his DUI arrest over the offseason, he is suspended for the first three games.
One man being out is another man’s opportunity and as the Suns opened their 2014 season on Wednesday night, the next man up was Marcus Morris. Just like the players on the Cardinals have done through injuries, suspensions, etc, Morris stepped up big and proved something to the Suns faithful with his 21 points, five three point field goals and the task of guarding Kobe Bryant all night.
“I had fun starting and I am happy we won,” Morris said after the game. “I just did my job, hit open shots and played off my teammates.”
“If he continues to play defense like that and shoot the ball, he is going to be in there at some points,” mentioned Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek. “I was happy for him to come out there in that first game, no jitters, he made the first shot and kept going from there.”
The task of guarding Kobe Bryant is never an easy one and Morris vied it as a litmus test for him as well as an opportunity.
“I am not happy because he had 30 in three quarters but I am happy that we won,” Morris explained. “All I could do is contest high. You know, he is one of the best players in the game…I was just trying to see where I am at.”
“Marcus is a little bit taller,” added Hornacek. “He was able to stay somewhat in front of him. Kobe got some good looks off but he was still able to challenge it. So it was a good effort by him defensively.”
Tucker is still out for another two games before he is eligible to make his first appearance of the season. If Marcus Morris continues to put out performances like he did against the Lakers, could there be a change in the rotation?
“It’s always possible,” Hornacek stated. “If we go 3-0, why would we change the lineup? We still have two games to go but we really liked the effort.”
“Whatever is best for the team,” mentioned Morris. “I know if we don’t start 3-0, we might change it up. I am just here to just play and have fun. This is a special team and I think we can do special things.”