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Phoenix Suns know the value of family

Kansas defender Marcus Morris (22) and Markieff Morris, right, sandwich Colorado's Marcus Relphorde as he tried to drive to the basket during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, Saturday, February 19, 2011. Kansas defeated Colorado, 89-63. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/MCT)

By Ashley Wijangco

Growing up as a Chicago Bulls fan, I never gave much thought to the Phoenix Suns. Even when I became more interested in the NBA, to me, the Suns were just that team Steve Nash was on, but that all changed when they selected Markieff Morris in the 2011 draft.

The only reason I really knew about Markieff was because he and his twin brother Marcus played for Kansas, one of the only college basketball teams I paid attention to. They declared for the NBA Draft together, and that was likely the end of their intertwined basketball journey.

As excited as I was to see Markieff go to Phoenix at No. 13 and Marcus go to Houston at No. 14, it saddened me to think they had to part ways, and that’s mostly because I’m an identical twin too. I realized that they could be even further apart, but they were about to be separated for the first time.

Then, on Feb. 21, 2013, the Morris twins were reunited after Marcus was traded to the Suns. They became the second pair of twins to play on the same NBA team. From then on, I knew I wanted them to remain together, not simply because it’s what they wanted, but because it was the best option for everyone.

Both twins are at the top of their game now, and that has helped the Suns become a threat in a loaded Western Conference. Looking back at the trade now, it certainly seems like a no-brainer, but what’s even better is what Phoenix recently realized about the duo: They need to stay.

On Sept. 30, the Suns signed Marcus and Markieff to four-year contract extensions, and there’s nothing really special about that; players sign contract extensions all the time, but what made their particular extensions unique is all in the details.

There was $52 million to split amongst the twins for the extensions, but how it was split wasn’t up to management or the coaching staff. It was the twins’ choice. It’s an unusual situation, but playing professional basketball alongside your identical twin isn’t common either. For Lon Babby, the Suns President of Basketball Operations, to give them that kind of freedom is something I can respect as both a twin and a basketball fan.

The Morris twins were fortunate enough to both end up in Phoenix, even if it happened separately. But the NBA is still a business, meaning they would need a lot of luck to remain on the same team. So not only does Babby’s decision show how much the Suns respect Marcus and Markieff, but it also shows the twins’ trust in the organization. It shows how much the Suns value the Morris twins as individuals, as a unit and as a family. They’re not the only family Phoenix has become a fan of, though.

Just one day before the Morris twins signed their contract extensions, the Suns signed Zoran Dragic, joining his brother and Suns point guard Goran Dragic. The move made them the first European set of brothers to play on the same NBA team, and it also made Phoenix the first team in league history to have two pairs of brothers on the same roster.

Zoran, who went undrafted in the 2011 NBA Draft, garnered attention from NBA teams after competing for Slovenia in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The 25-year-old guard averaged 14.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 26.3 minutes while shooting 50 percent from the field. In addition, he has been playing professional basketball internationally since he was 15.

Phoenix already has a loaded backcourt, so whether or not Zoran cracks the rotation is yet to be seen. But the fact that the Suns are taking a chance on him says they want to give him the chance to fulfill his NBA dream alongside his older brother.

There’s no question that making it to the NBA is a difficult task. The chance to make it to the same NBA team as your brother is even less likely, but the Suns know that family value is worth it, which I can certainly respect.

Even though the Bulls will always have my heart, it’s for that reason that I’ll be more of a Phoenix fan now than ever before.

Ashley is a sophomore in Media. She can be reached at wijangc2@dailyillini.com. Follow her on Twitter @wijangco12.

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