Owner Robert Sarver, while saying the blame for his Phoenix Suns' struggles extends throughout the organization, has linked their challenges more broadly to "millennial culture," with forward Markieff Morris serving as a prime example.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Sarver questioned whether Morris, 26, wasn't meeting expectations this season because of what the owner thought could be trouble that his generation has with handling problems.
"I'm not sure it's just the NBA," Sarver said, when reached by The Republic via phone, regarding personality clashing and dysfunction within locker rooms. "My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks, and Markieff Morris is the perfect example. He had a setback with his brother in the offseason, and he can't seem to recover from it."
Morris' 2015 was beset with issues on and off the court, most recently a two-game suspension levied late last month by the Suns after he threw a towel at coach Jeff Hornacek during a game. The suspension cost Morris $145,455.
Morris, averaging 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 23.4 minutes in 23 games this season, has been angling for a trade since the offseason after his brother, Marcus Morris, was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Fined $10,000 by the league for a public trade demand, Markieff Morris has also been involved, along with his brother, in an apparently ongoing aggravated assault case stemming from an alleged incident at a Phoenix recreation center in January 2015. They entered not-guilty pleas to felony charges in May.
"I'm not sure if it's the technology or the instant gratification of being online," Sarver said. "But the other thing is, I'm not a fan of social media. I tell my kids it's like Fantasyland. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations.
"We've had a number of setbacks this year that have taken their toll on us, and we haven't been resilient. Therefore, it's up to our entire organization to step up their game."
That organization still includes Hornacek, after the Suns said last week they would be keeping him after reportedly considering his ouster. They instead promoted Earl Watson and Nate Bjorkgren to the bench to work closer to Hornacek and dismissed veteran assistants Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting.
"The reality is, there's only a half-dozen championship-caliber organizations in the NBA over the last 25 years," Sarver said. "My job is to find the right people and the right culture to eventually be one of those organizations, and it starts with me. I'm not shirking responsibility."
Since opening 7-5, the Suns have lost 20 of 25 games and stand 14th in the 15-team Western Conference at 12-25.
"The blame is to be shared from the top down," Sarver said. "Our leadership needs to communicate better. It needs to provide a better culture that provides for more accountability and more motivation. We have a lot of good, young players. They need to be playing hard, aggressively and on the same page whether we win or lose. That's what I expect going forward."
Information from ESPN senior writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.