If a basketball team is supposed to be like a family, the Phoenix Suns are already steps ahead of the game.
This season’s roster includes a set of twins, a second pair of brothers, and another player whose sibling is also in the NBA. These close familial ties have created a unique team chemistry formed by names on the front of the jerseys … and on the back.
Marcus and Markieff Morris: “They’re like a shadow”
Marcus and Markieff Morris have been joined at the hip for the past 25 years. From growing up in Philadelphia to playing college basketball at Kansas, they were reunited in the NBA when Marcus was traded to the Suns in 2013.
In September, they proved just how connected they are by negotiating cumulative contract extensions worth $52 million. The salaries go toward, among other things, the home and cars they share together.
“We have four cars. Some are in my name, some are in his,” Marcus told Basketball Insiders. “We were always in the same school and we save money that way instead of me having (my own) car. Me and him, we do the same stuff. Outside of practice, we’re really homebodies.”
At home and at work, the two are rarely far from one another.
“The twins, they’re always together,” Goran Dragic said. “They’re like a shadow.”
The Suns recognized the depth of the Morris’ bond watching them in practice. There is no one-upping, no attempts to prove who is the better athlete. Instead, there is a sense of unity even when they are on opposing practice squads.
“I haven’t seen many brothers like the twins,” Miles Plumlee said. “They really look out for each other. They’ve got each other’s back. Goran and Zoran will go at it, like me and my brother would. But they actually aren’t going to hurt each other, I’ll put it that way, it’s pretty obvious. So it’s better to have them on the same team because you don’t want them guarding each other in a real game (laughs).”
Marcus offers a simple explanation for their approach.
“We just make each other better,” he said. “We know each other’s game so much, so it’s more like I can’t really go at him. He knows what I’m going to do, he knows my game, we’ve been working out and getting better together every day. After practice, it’s more intense when I go against him and we play one-on-one.”
Markieff says the two hold one another accountable in game situations. They don’t let each other slip up or allow mistakes to slide. They are committed to making one another a better basketball player, and they couldn’t imagine doing it alone.
“The game isn’t the same without each other,” Markieff said.
Goran and Zoran: “I try to help him as much as possible”
For years Goran and Zoran Dragic communicated through Skype and phone calls. This season, they can simply turn to the next locker.
The Dragic brothers began their basketball careers in Slovenia. Goran, 28, entered the NBA in 2008. Six years later, Zoran, 25, followed.
Goran had always hoped his brother could join him in the league; he didn’t think it would be on the same team. After the FIBA World Cup this summer, he realized it could be a reality.
“Ryan (McDonough), the GM, he called me and he said, ‘If you have time we can go to dinner and talk a little bit, and bring your brother. I want to meet him,'” Goran said. “At first, I didn’t know, I just thought he was polite and wants to have my brother next to me. Then when I came to dinner we started talking and soon he was asking questions for my brother … I was like, ‘Ok, what is this?’ … Then all the media put those rumors out and I started thinking, ‘Maybe this is a possibility.'”
Zoran signed with the Suns in late September. He moved in with Goran and his family, but recently secured an apartment for he and his wife and plans to move out soon. Even though they won’t be living together, Goran is still focused on helping his younger brother get adjusted to life in the United States and the NBA.
“His goal was to come to the NBA to follow me,” Goran said. “It’s a great responsibility, too, because it’s a first year for him and I try to help him as much as possible.”
Zoran describes them as “connected” and says he has been learning from Goran’s experience. When it comes to basketball, the Dragic brothers take a more competitive angle.
“Me and my brother, we go always hard,” Goran said. “I remember this preseason in training camp we almost got into a fight. But it’s not like we don’t love each other, it’s just we’re so competitive. But I think sometimes that’s good if you push yourself. You can make only better for you, for your brother.”
Playing on the same team also makes life easier for their family, many of whom still live in Europe.
“(My mother) was very happy of course because now she can do only one trip to the USA,” Goran said. “Before she was doing a lot more.”
Miles Plumlee: “You’re always there for each other”
Miles Plumlee doesn’t have the same luxury as the Morris and Dragic brothers to be with his siblings every day. He does, however, get to see his younger brother on the court. Mason is a center for the Brooklyn Nets.
Whether they are miles apart in different conferences or playing against each other in the same city, having his brother in the NBA with him is a sense of comfort.
“You’re always there for each other when things aren’t going well,” Miles said. “They’re a good source of motivation, too. You want to push each other, support one another. That’s the biggest thing.”
Miles’ youngest brother, Marshall, currently plays basketball at Duke University. Miles has a strong sense of family and sees that same bond translate on to the court for the pairs of siblings on the Suns.
“I feel like they play for each other, that’s the definition of a true teammate,” he said. “I think our team does that as a whole, but it’s a special level where they’re not going to let their brother get hit. They pick each other up when they’re down, it’s a cool dynamic.”
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