Phoenix Suns rookie Markieff Morris was selected to participate in the NBA All-Star weekend festivities by playing in the BBVA Rising Star Challenge at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 24. Morris was drafted by general manager Shaquille O’Neal, in a new format this season in which the rookie and second-year players were mixed together on teams for the first time. The other team was headed up by none other than Charles Barkley, another former Sun. When asked about the selection, Morris said, “It’s a great honor. I didn’t know that I was going to be chosen.”
Morris played just over 15 minutes in the game, and made 5 of 7 shots, including 2 of 3 from three, on his way to scoring 12 points in the game. He also pulled down 2 rebounds and committed three turnovers in the game. The game was played in two halves, and while playing 10 minutes in the first half, Morris converted on every shot attempt, scoring 7 of the teams 65 points.
Team Shaq trailed by as much as 15 in the first half, and trailed 77-65 going into the second half. Team Chuck out-shot, out-rebounded, and out-scored team Shaq in the paint throughout the first half. Kyrie Irving was the leading scorer at halftime with 18 points.
By the time Markieff Morris entered the game in the second half, team Shaq still trailed by 15. Morris scored 5 points in just over 5 minutes of playing time, but left the game after suffering a minor thumb injury. He played fewer minutes than everyone on the team but Jeremy Lin and Blake Griffin. After the game, Morris said, “I’m mad that we lost.”
Team Shaq closed the lead to 8 early in the second half, but soon after, team Chuck ran up a 21 point lead. Team Shaq could not pull any closer than 11 after that point, and ended up losing the game 146-133. Tristan Thompson led team Shaq with 20 points, and Kyrie Irving scored a game high 34 points to lead team Chuck to the win.
Morris said Minnesota Timberwolves Ricky Rubio was the player he enjoyed playing with the most because it reminded him of playing with his Suns teammate, and 2012 NBA All-Star, Steve Nash. About Rubio, Morris said, “He’s got dimes for days…the passes that he has are crazy.”
Morris is obviously not as athletic and flashy as many other participants in the game, but he deserved to play in the Rising Star Challenge. As a rookie for the Phoenix Suns, Morris is averaging 7.9 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game, while playing in just over 20 minutes per game. Much to the surprise of the Suns, as well as many NBA scouts, Morris is shooting 40.3 percent from three in his first NBA season.