PHOENIX — As if taking on the Golden State Warriors were not enough, the Suns took on each other Wednesday.
Brotherly love turned physical less than three minutes into the Warriors’ 112-104 victory, when Markieff Morris and Archie Goodwin had to be separated on the bench during a Suns’ timeout.
Morris, standing on the edge of the court, slapped at Goodwin’s arms and pushed him as he attempted to stand up before forward P.J. Tucker stepped between them. One still photo showed Morris’ hand around Goodwin’s neck, but Morris denied choking was involved.
“That’s nothing,” Morris said. “That’s part of being a leader, being a brother. Sometimes little brothers and big brothers get into it, and that’s what happened. Wrong place, wrong time. What happened wasn’t supposed to happen.
“You hold everybody accountable when you’re a leader of a team. You hold yourself accountable. That b.s about choking somebody, that ain’t nothing.”
Morris said he apologized to Goodwin, and the two finished the game as the Suns’ leading scorers. Goodwin had 20 points and Morris had 19.
They could not help the Suns (14-40) stop a downward trend in which they have lost nine in a row, 15 of their last 16 and 24 of their last 26.
Morris has become the focal point in the Suns’ offense since interim coach Earl Watson took over on Feb. 1, and Watson has encouraged Morris, as one of the more veteran players, to take a leadership role.
“I’ve been in this role before,” Morris said, “just not here but college and high school. I’ve jacked a couple of guys up in my day. It happens. It’s just different because everybody had their cameras on you.
“It’s a tough season. Everybody will put it down as everything is going bad. It’s not even that. It’s just a big brother with a little brother. Holding them accountable, sometimes it gets physical. It’s what happens. There were no punches thrown, none of that, just a couple of punches and shoves, a couple of ‘I love yous’ and we done with it.”
Goodwin and Morris sit three lockers apart in the Suns’ locker room and often banter back and forth. They are close friends, Watson said, and lived together at one point.
“We’re family. It happens,” Goodwin said. “I love him like a brother. He loves me. Just one of those situations. A family fight. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love him any less.”
The incident only lasted a few seconds, and Watson was on the court discussing options with his assistant coaches and did not catch much of it.
“The situation is this,” Watson said. “This team has a lot of passion. We want to fight. We want to win. We expect everyone to play their hardest and we expect everyone to be accountable for how they play. We have to learn how to continue to grow and we have to control our emotions.
“They have a bond, a unique relationships. As we’ve seen, unique relationships can lead to something else throughout the league on other teams. Markieff was trying to motivate Archie.”
Watson put a positive spin on it.
“If guys didn’t believe they could win, that never would have happened,” Watson said. “When guys come into the game and they feel like they have to get on people to play harder or they want to be more vocal, it means they can win. If we believed we were going to lose no matter what, guys would come into the huddle and there’d be no conversation.”