NBA AM: Suns and Morris Trying to Make It Work

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Making It Work:  The Phoenix Suns opened training camp yesterday with their annual media day. As expected, vocally disgruntled forward Markieff Morris was not only in attendance, but he did his best to defuse the dispute that played out in the media over the summer after the Suns traded away his twin brother, Marcus, to the Detroit Pistons.

Phoenix had said that they were not going to entertain trading Morris, despite his claims that he was finished with the organization. Suns brass felt that once they got Morris into camp and could talk with him and have him around his teammates, things could be turned around and smoothed over.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said he understood Morris’ frustration, but he made it clear the team has never discussed trades with their players under his watch and they wouldn’t be consulting or notifying players of trades regardless of the situation.

Morris, for his part, said all the right things. Morris pledged to be on board with the team, the franchise and the front office. He stated several times that he was committed to Phoenix and expecting a big season with the Suns.

For the Suns part, there was a sense that even if the team wanted to trade Morris, which they were clear to teams that expressed interest that they were not, his new contract, his pending legal issues and the manner in which he handled the situation this summer made it nearly impossible for the Suns to extract any value out of Morris in trade.

Sources close to the situation said that the plan for now is to try and make this relationship work and let some issues play out. While Morris is expected to play a big role for the team this season, there is a belief that if Morris can resolve his legal issues, play well and stay out of the press, his trade value could come up and a deal that’s more to the Suns liking could materialize.

Sources close to the situation said that both the Suns and Morris had a lengthy conversation, and both expressed a desire to try and make this situation work. Time will tell if the commitments made yesterday will truly play out for the entire season, but the sense from those involved is that Morris is on board. How long he stays that way remains to be seen.

Tick-Tock Tristan:  The Cleveland Cavaliers opened their 2015-16 season yesterday, and while there was a lot of talk with the media about returning to the NBA Finals and getting their core guys back on the court healthy, there was a notable absentee: restricted free agent Tristan Thompson.

After months of back and fourth, the Cavaliers and Thompson did not reach a deal before training camp opened and while the general vibe was one of long-term optimism, Thompson was not with his team and may not be with his team again today.

Cavaliers general manager David Griffin addressed the situation with the media, and made it clear there has never been a lack of commitment to Thompson being a Cavalier for the long run.

“We love Tristan Thompson and we want him to be part of our future moving forward, and I think everything in our actions, and our offer indicates that,” Griffin said to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“We also believe very strongly that Tristan loves this team, and he loves competing with these guys and we think everything in his actions to this point have demonstrated the same. So, we’re excited about moving forward with him into the future in whatever form that may take. Again, I think we feel very good about where this is because of who Tristan is and how competitive he is and the relationships he has with his teammates.”

Griffin acknowledged that the situation was far from ideal, but said he did not think the Thompson situation would be a distraction given the goals and construction of the roster.

“I think in a different franchise with a different set of goals, it might be,” Griffin said. “Everybody in our locker room knows what our mission is this year. We’re here to deliver titles in Northeast Ohio. That’s what we’re doing. So there’s nothing lost by what Tristan is doing right now in this process. It’s certainly his right to do this.”

Thompson has until October 1 to sign the Cavaliers $6.77 million qualifying offer. After that date, the Cavaliers have no obligation to keep that offer on the table, but would retain the restricted free agency rights for Thompson even if he does not sign and they pull the offer, so there is a sense that closure is coming by Thursday.

Sources close to the process say the Cavaliers have a standing long-term contract offer – one said to be worth roughly $80 million. Thompson’s camp has been seeking the full maximum salary allowed, but recently backed off the demand for five fully guaranteed years, settling in on a three-year counter-offer (something the Cavs are not overly interested in).

The biggest issue facing the Cavs is the luxury tax implications of a full max-level deal, as such a contract would cost the Cavs north of $50 million in tax – hence their reluctance to go that high.

There has been a narrative that the Cavaliers would rather see Thompson pick up the offer sheet and reengage on a new contract next summer when the salary cap is higher and the tax impact of a deal is lower. It’s been said that if Thompson takes the qualifying offer, he would look to leave as an unrestricted free agent next summer (with his hometown Toronto Raptors being mentioned often as a possible suitor). However, Cavs sources have said next summer they might be more willing to meet the contract demands to retain Thompson, especially if he continues his upward trend and the Cavaliers can return to the Finals.

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