He was once dubbed The Matrix. TNT’s Kenny Smith even gave him a patented sound that’s onomatopoeia too complicated to spell out. Nowadays, Shawn Marion, a four-time NBA All-Star, is supposed to be a role player with the Dallas Mavericks, a defensive stopper who needed only to do the little things to help out Dirk Nowitzki and Co. But in a career of ending many seasons by saying “almost” or “maybe,” Marion doesn’t appear satisfied to sit back anymore.
He’s taking this one personally.
The 11-year NBA veteran scored 20 points and grabbed eight boards in Dallas’ 95-93 comeback victory against Miami on Thursday. It was a flashback to his younger days with the Phoenix Suns, when the man with the fastest springs in the league threw up wacky jumpers, flipped in quick floaters and averaged double-doubles.
Was it anything new?
“Just being aggressive and taking the ball to the rack,” Marion told ESPN after the game. “Also, I was able to handle some pick and rolls. I like that. I was able to come off and be aggressive and attack more. I was able to find my teammates or attack the basket.”
One difference in his game is that Marion appears a little more grown up these days. Those 20-10 nights came in Phoenix despite Marion becoming more and more maligned by Phoenix fans as each year passed. He had all the tools to be a dominant rebounder and defender, but at times, his effort was questioned by the fans and the media.
That led to Marion feeling disrespected. Trade rumors didn’t help either. He left after the last few years of his tenure came with constant rumblings of a change, leading to his rising discontentment with the Suns management.
Now, he has a chance to prove that maybe any complaints about his effort were in bad form. Players learn. They grow wiser with time. Work ethic, media-savvy and personal image develop as years pass. It happens with everyone.
Whether any of those three things have changed with Marion after he was traded away from Phoenix for Shaquille O’Neal remain to be seen. But was the gist on Marion giving him a fair shake? Perhaps it was brewed up by the media after the Suns struggled to reach the NBA Finals despite having the talents of, among others, Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. Maybe Marion was a scapegoat.
So eventually, he had enough and forced a trade. He had stints in Miami and Toronto before landing in Dallas, where all of a sudden he’s looking like The Matrix of old.
He’s been aggressive and efficient on offense in the past three playoff games, averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. More importantly – and more career defining – has been Marion’s defense against Kevin Durant and LeBron James in those three games. They’ve gotten theirs, but neither has scored more than 24 points in that same span.
Give credit to The Matrix. Age hasn’t overtaken his body to the point where his will isn’t enough to be the second best player on the Mavs. He’s played at least 35 minutes per game in the last five contests, almost all of them productive, and his aggressiveness has given Dallas a shot in the arm that Miami probably didn’t expect.
Is he on a mission to squash his old criticisms? No. But he’s on a quest for a championship ring that might legitimize one of the league’s more successful, yet under-appreciated NBA careers.
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