Friday, September 21, 2007

The Marion Paradox

Everyone who follows the NBA knows about the Suns by now. They know about the Suns style, they know about the Suns players. They know about the run and the gun, they know about the Steve Nash alley oops and the Amare dunks, the three point barrages, the ups and downs the Suns go through over the course of the game. They know all about how Nash can hit the three and use both hands, which has undoubtedly led to quite a few sportscasters having to look up the definition of "Ambidextrous". Everybody knows about Amare's fearsome dunks, the pick and roll, the microfracture surgery, about the resurgence to being a premier player in the league... if only so they could retain hope for the future of players like Greg Oden and Kenyon Martin.

And yet... what about the third cog in the Suns machine? How many people know that Shawn catches more alley-oops than anybody else in the league? How many people know that there are a grand total of two plays the Suns actually ever run for Shawn? Who remembers the Marion offensive rebound that led to the game tying three by Nash, and if you do remember it, do you ever put more emphasis on that than the shot?

A man who is generally toted as one of the uniquely talented players in the league, a superstar in his own right and yet not a true superstar. A man who is a legit 20 PPG scorer, yet has no on ball moves. A man who can go off for 35 points and 20 rebounds one night, and get 10 points and 3 rebounds the next. A walking double double who is far too small to be counted on consistently for that kind of production. A pure hustle role player who puts up superstar types of numbers. A man who can be counted on to guard the opposing point guard and the opposing center in the same game, and do so well enough that he's actually helping the team by taking on such tough assignments.

Marion runs through every game, never stopping, and yet, never seems to fatigue. He bounces up and down through the entire game and yet never seems to get injured the way most people who pogo-stick through games somehow manage. A slasher who can't get to the free throw line... Even Shawn's shot form seems to aimlessly defy common sense, as if for no better reason than because nothing can ever make sense in Shawn's game.

All this seems to pose one question: For someone who is so uniquely talented, why isn't his name plastered everywhere? Why is Shawn brought up in every trade talk that vaguely involves Phoenix in any way? Why is he so sought after but generally devalued?

It's an interesting set of questions and raises even more interesting contradictions concerning Shawn. Shawn is extremely personable and well liked in general, always a smiling face and an interesting quip... and yet, he seems to lack the charisma to pull off his own image. Much like he plays the game, he rushes straight on through his conversations with whoever is interviewing him, who is invariably baffled by how fast he talks and his sense of urgency to not be talking anymore. Would Shawn be considered a true superstar if he were more charismatic? Who knows. He still gets his TV ads, both local and national... and is put right next to bona fide superstars in the process. There he stands, walking side by side with the best players in the league... Kobe, LeBron and Nash all among the people in the oft-watch "Second Coming" commercials... and he was given the same type of spotlight as them.

And yet, you ask people "Paul Pierce or Shawn Marion?" (both are in that video), a good majority of those people will probably say Pierce. (Unless you are talking with just Suns fans. Then it might be a different story.) Even myself, I can't think of any reason that you would rather have Shawn Marion than, say... Chris Paul. Why? I really don't know. It's yet another example of the intractable nature of his game.

Nobody in Phoenix really wants to get rid of him... yet, if he did go... would there really be an outcry? There would if Amare were to get traded. If the Suns had indeed sent one of the packages for Garnett up to Wolvesland, most Suns fans would gladly trade Marion instead of Amare. Would you have rather seen Amare and Kurt Thomas head to the Wolves for KG, or Marion and Kurt Thomas? And imagine the fervent cries of "KILL SARVER!" were the Suns to trade Nash this offseason.

Why, then, would the third man in our big three... the man who was #4 in scoring, #1 in rebounding, #1 in steals, #1 in blocks, #1 in minutes played, #4 in FG%, and missed a grand total of two games this season... why would the outcry be so much smaller?

Is it the frustration Shawn causes amidst his brilliance? The thrill of him losing his man and throwing down a poorly thrown alley-oop which he still somehow managed to catch followed by him inexplicably missing a wide open lay up the next play down? The thrill of him hitting a big three pointer when we need it most, followed by him somehow rocketing the ball up into the stands on a botched dunk attempt? The feeling overwhelming admiration when he comes from behind to reject someone five inches taller than himself, grab the rebound, and then the feeling of despair when he throws the ball away directly after?

Or is it something far simpler... the fact that he can't score without someone giving him the ball in a position to do it. Whether that means on a pass or an offensive rebound, or even him just scooping the ball up after a loose ball. Perhaps it's the fact that any time he starts dribbling, the only time he will ever get to the hoop is if the guy guarding him is so much slower than him that he has no business guarding him in the first place.

Or maybe it's that, through all of this... through being the highest paid player on the team, being named to the all star team, getting lucrative advertising deals, being one of the top vote getters for defensive player of the year... he still finds time to claim that he's unappreciated. Perhaps it's the potential for him to destroy the team's chemistry with a me-first attitude in a system that calls for selflessness. And all this while embodying the idea of a team player. Someone who will do what he does irregardless of his teammate's accomplishments... Someone who can win games through hard work and desire.

So why is his game so appealing while managing to be appalling?

Just another contradiction in the world of Shawn Marion.

Edit: Big thanks to TrueHoop, FreeDarko, Golden State of Mind, and everyone else who I'm forgetting for all the link-love.

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At 11:37 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

It's Marion's continuing bitching and refusing to *be* just a cog that puts the Marion problem--yes, problem--over the top, Zei. I say he should go before he becomes seriously disruptive, on top of his exorbitant salary. If he had less ego, I would never want him to be traded.

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

There's another possibility for trouble with Marion. If Amare Stoudemire becomes an even better player this season, particularly defensively, Shawn's jealousy of him might increase and become impossible to ignore.

Not since the late Charles Barkley era have I so felt that the current Suns team is flawed. Not that the two groups share the same problems: the Barkley-KJ-Majerle Suns didn't have a bad coach or a starting player who is a big baby with an ego disproportionate to his third-wheel status.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm really sick of people complaining about his attitude as if he's gonna blow up the whole team or something. So what if he says he feels underappreciated sometimes? That's because he is! He's never really said anything that could potentially disrupt team other than the previous statement, but that's baby nuts as far as I'm concerned. I guess people are started to get at mad Marion simply because people fabricate all these weird things that he supposedly feels. "He's a crybaby and not a good locker room presense." Says you! He says he's feels undervalued like one time and all of a sudden he has a bigger ego than Amare!? Ridiculous. I guess people want to point the blame at Marion because of a string of bad luck in the playoffs and coming up short. It's D'antoni's fault for being such a stubborn coach and running a six man rotation in key situations.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger Zei_Zao_LS said...

On the Marion issue, it's come up more than just once. It's come up quite a few times since the 04-05 season.

However, his ego isn't as big as Amare's. Amare's ego is, honestly, what seems to irk Shawn, aside from recognition related things.

Also: Is that you, Ice? =p

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

Hey, Anon, I dislike Coach D'Antoni as much as anyone. It's probably partly because of him that no non-marquee free agents except Grant Hill (whose playing time is guaranteed because he's Grant Hill) want to join the Suns--they know they won't play.

Please recall not just the "underappreciated" remark but every other complaint Marion has made--there *has* been more damaging stuff, Anon. I'm referring specifically to his saying he might like to be the man on another team.

Someone on this blog (I think it was here) claimed Shawn was jealous of Amare, not just irked, and if that's true, then you can't be right, Zei--how can one be jealous of an ego?

If you think I am exaggerating the problem, Anon, well, I mean to suggest that it should probably be eliminated before it can get worse. Because more likely than Shawn disrupting the entire team chemistry is that he opts out of his contract after this season and demands a contract at least as big as the last one. This whole situation could probably be ignored if he made $5M a year or even $10M. I would say, never trade Marion.

At 6:11 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

He's at it again already, this time complaining because the Suns won't talk about a contract extension. Get a clue, Shawn. You are the #3 player, but the highest-paid, on an already financially tied-up team, and you want it to invest more money in you?

Oh, and I found something good to say about Marion: he looks better when compared with Joe Johnson. Joe demanded a trade, and is now playing for a loser; Shawn has only made noises about it.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Zei_Zao_LS said...

"But according to several Suns sources, Marion seems to be unhappy that the team will not talk about a contract extension. The word is that the four-time All-Star, in his eighth year with the team, wants $60 million over three years. Marion, already the highest-paid Suns player, will make $16.4 million this season and $17.8 million for 2008-09.

Trade rumors might not bother Marion much anymore, because there are indications that he would welcome a deal. The locker-room reviews on such an idea are mixed."

Well, that's unfortunate.

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Ben said...

how many times do we have to hear how underrated marion is? seemingly everyone that watches basketball would give their left nut to have him on their team, he's the highest paid player on the Suns, and we STILL have to get these stories from reporters/bloggers/color commentators about how nobody knows how much marion does for the suns. we all get it, everyone knows. he'd be worth the 3/$60 extension if it came with a mute button so i don't have to hear him or anyone else complaining about how under-appreciated he is. and for $60 million somebody can afford to figure that out right?

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Ben. How can you be underrated if everyone thinks you're spectacular. I love this: "How many people know that Shawn catches more alley-oops than anybody else in this league?" Come on! Would anybody NOT immediately think of Marion in answering this question? We do watch basketball, you know.

--Knick fan dreaming of having a player with half of Marion's talent.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

You know, Zei, the Suns should never have gotten rid of Jake Voskuhl a few years ago. He's a good defender, and he only supposedly didn't score--he had at least one twenty-point game, and he took over Jake Tsakalidis's starting job. There have been a number of good players the D'Antoni regime dumped for no obvious reason, especially Jim Jackson and Casey Jacobsen.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Zei_Zao_LS said...

It's not a "Marion is underappreciated" article. I was originally pointing out that, generally speaking, Marion's contributions aren't as easy to spot as, say, Nash and Amare's. That said, at this point, I believe Marion has gotten overrated and, in truth, become somewhat detrimental to the team with his current me-first attitude. (Which I hinted at in the article.)

Brian Skinner is a good signing. Athletic, big, plays good defense, rebounds, and hustles.

I liked Voskuhl... but, talented he was not. He hustled and gave 100% out there at all times to make up for that detriment, but still, he's not really a rotation player in D'Antoni's system. He set some killer screens though. ;)

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Icy said...


Send him up here to the Jazz, we'll use him these last two years and get a ring. Will he walk after wards? Proabbly. But boy he would be the piece we need...

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Marion said that he wanted to be the man on another team, he forgot players like Johnson, Kobe, Pierce and Garnett who were/are the man and still don't win anything as a team. Even Jordan didn't win by himself, at least not until Chicago brought in Phil Jackson, Pippen, Grant and later, Rodman.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Irregardless" isn't a word.

At 7:25 PM, Anonymous John said...

I can't imagine why anybody would want to leave any team involving Steve Nash. If I were an NBA player I would do whatever it takes to catch some of those Nash lob passes.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

Sorry, Icy, but (a)do we really want to trade Shawn Marion for someone who cried when things didn't go his way, and (b)since Jerry Sloan (my pick for best coach ever) has made the Jazz a playoff team again, it would be risky to trade Shawn to a possible first-round playoff opponent.

If I may say so, this is a very civil forum. Not once have I been flamed for wanting to trade Marion.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Zei_Zao_LS said...

Irregardless - adv. - Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.

It's used in casual speech and writing. I'm not getting paid for this, so I consider this casual writing. ;)

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

funny...I think Nowitzki, Howard, etc. went farther with Jason Terry at the point than Nash...

why do you think everyone would want to play with Steve Nash? If I was Amare I would rather play with Kobe, or Wade, or Lebron, or.... (they all have complete games)

Nash is probably the most valuable offensive player in the league, but he is such a defensive liability that no team can win a championship with him unless you surround him with defensive minded players who can also finish. That is why Marion is so important. If he leaves the team they better replace him with a Kirilenko, cause if they don't the Suns will get much worse.

In fact I would be offering Barbosa to Utah for Kirilenko. Amare, AK47, Marion, Nash and Raja would be the best starting 5 in the league.

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every now and then you have a player with problems with reality, who, every time he's interviewed, all he talks about is the same fantasy. Penny did this for years, about getting ready to "blow up the league" and "really surprise people". Slam magazine cover article in 2000. USA Today. It was everywhere. He's still doing it, after 7 years. Vin Baker did this about, "really being sober", and "regaining his old form". Marion does his disrespect schtick in the New York Times, Slam, I must've read the article a million times over, of bitterness, complaining, wishing he had more endorsements, getting mad about not being recognized. It's the same thing over and over again, from 2004 onward. It's getting tiresome. Eventually, these players who keep talking about the same thing, keep fooling the same journalists, they get exposed for their delusions. - Ishmael

At 11:10 PM, Blogger Hersey said...

Good work Zei. Welcome to the True Hoop browsers too.

My thoughts on Marion are similar. The whole recognition thing to me is ridiculous in the same way Amare and his boasts are silly. Here are two guys with great talent who play with a point guard who makes the game easier for them on offense. Marion puts in great effort on D and doesn't have to create his own shot and puts up 20 a night. What is there to complain about? What good is recognition without a trophy or a ring? Marion can't be frustrated with his pay.

The funny thing about this situation is, Marion can walk after this season. What is he going to do and say this season? The window is still open for the Suns and with a smaller roster they need him to be really special this year. With a special effort he might get this team deeper into the playoffs and earn another big contract. It's on him.

At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"funny...I think Nowitzki, Howard, etc. went farther with Jason Terry at the point than Nash..."

and everyone knows that Nowitzki, Howard, etc. would've won the championship easily if they magically had Nash instead of Terry at PG...

At 7:41 AM, Blogger supergg2k said...

Great post. Kind of makes you wonder what's on the mind of the Suns' front office.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marion is NOT underrated.
He is not a Top 5 player in the league but a case could be made for him in a top 10.
I could find more people claim that he is over-rated and not under. Everyone who follows basketball knows who Marion is. The fact that he plays on the most entertaining team in the league alongside Basketball Gandhi at the point has ONLY increased his visibility.
There are people in life who always feel like they are not getting respected (formented by a diseased pop culture were 'respect' and being 'dissed' has a life and death meaning).
It is not the case with Marion.
He is the highest paid player in a team which uses his skill sets to its advantage with game's best and most unselfish (the term applies to someone who CAN shoot but often does as opposed to one like J-Kidd who cant shoot) passer as a PG.

If he wants to compare, he can talk to AK who plays for the miserable anti-D'Antoni coach, in a bland offense where he is now his team's 4th option and well, lets say it, he has to live in Utah. (Phoenix isnt the Riviera but its a step up).
He can talk to his friend Johnson in Atlanta who is now 'the man' and ask him if he will get to play in a plaoff game before his contract expires.
I understand AK perfectly (and what team can afford to give 16million to a 4th option?) and even Johnson who wanted to be the man with the ball in his hands at crunch time.
Marion is NOT the man. He will never be the man. It is not in his Chris Webber psyche (whose absurb claim doomed a Kings team which without him had ran up the league\s top record) to be the man. Its not even in his way of playing. He is a finisher supreme but has a bad handle.

At least he wont have to worry about Skinner taking shots away from him. I remember watching Skinner play with sprained, taped thumbs and noting how it didnt make his woeful offensive game any worse. Good hustle guy, good d, blocking and rebound but not huge for a center.
Definitely not a starter in the league (well, maybe in the east!) but off the bench will give you 6 nasty fouls to work with. Its a downgrade offensively from Kurt Thomas but not defensively.

You gotta love a board where people yearn for Jake Voskuhl and others feel free agents dont come to the Suns because of D'Antoni (I would go more with the fact that the Suns are cutting costs and are offering minimum deals and less with dislike for a coach who plays an all out offense that most players would kill for)

Robuka Kenderle

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is stooopid to suggest that Shawn Marion is unappreciated or gets no respect, etc., etc.

The two biggest ways NBA players are appreciated/respected are SALARY and MINUTES. Shawn is the highest paid player on the Suns. Shawn gets the most playing time of any player on the Suns. Shawn is the most appreciated and respected player in Suns history. Ironically, Shawn is probably not one of the ten best Suns players of all time. If anything, Shawn gets far more props than are due.

If Shawn wants to be traded, I doubt the Suns fan base will crumble when he goes. If Shawn is fortunate enough to stay with the Suns, he should stop talking to the press and focus on playing ball!

Suns Fan For Life

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I was Shawn, I would want to leave Phoenix too. Just knowing that no matter what he does the Suns could not and will not win a Championship in Phoenix. The Spurs have got his number and know how to make him disappear when it matters the most!!!!

Thanks for #4,
**** GO SPURS GO ***

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I'm surprised people would comment asking why Marion's jealous of Amare's fame. It's because he was supposed to be the guy, and then Amare came and had that one playoff series and suddenly everyone loved Amare and forgot about Shawn. Hell, in the '05-'06 season all the dance team members were coming out with Nash and Stoudemire jerseys. No Marion (this was the year Stoudemire wasn't even playing for the whole season due to injury, and Marion's increased production helped keep the team in the playoffs and got them just as far as they've ever been). More Stoudemire stuff was on sale in the gift store at the arena at the same time.

When you get upset, you notice the little things and eventually they become big things that screw up a relationship.

It doesn't help that he inexplicably has never been on an all-defensive team. That's just disgustingly poor judgment on the part of the voters. Not even second team? WTF are those retards smoking?

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Zei_Zao_LS said...

Concerning bench people not wanting to sign with the Suns... it's because D'Antoni runs a 7-8 man rotation at the most. Jalen Rose and Jumaine Jones both got screwed last year, playing garbage time on occasion. Marcus Banks had his minutes jerked around more than is reasonable, and he played well when he did play.

Nice to see all the TrueHoop people here.

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Guilherme said...

Hey guys, let just not forget how bad he play against te Spurs when it matters at all...
Let him go and bring some size to the Valley.
I love what he did for us in the past but the Suns are way more important.
I want a title now !!!
Bring Wallace, AK47, O'neal... SIZE!!! D fense...

Best wishes from Brazil
The Blur neighborhood...

At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Russell said...

Zei - You make a great point about Marion's charisma. He's full of yes and no answers. I think he would feel more appreciated if he was more charismatic when being interviewed - because more people would want to interview him.

I'm still in favor of making Marion play out his contract this year. I don't think he has it in him to sulk on the court. Not with Nash around anyway. Then we'll see what happens next summer. If he opts out, I'll thank him for what he's done for my team. But I won't shed a tear. He's too much of an enigma for that.

But if Kerr decides to pull the trigger on a trade, it MUST be to the Eastern Conference. Marion in LA or Marion in Utah would be a nightmare scenerio for the Suns. So the only trade I could live with would be Marion and Banks for O'Neal. But I don't see why Indiana would do that.

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Shawn Marion and I love the Phoenix Suns. But if a player that is included in all of the local Suns marketing campaigns, a multi-time All-Star (selected by the coaching staff and peers in the NBA), featured in national Nike ads, and all the while being the highest paid player on the team, has the audacity to say he is underappreciated and wants to go.....then I say fine, get the hell out and don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. He is putting himself first and not the team. When the Suns should be focused on a run at the championship, one of our "big three" is complaining about not getting any love and now that is what the focus is heading in to training camp. It is ridiculous and it is irritating. I would love nothing more than to see Shawn finish his career here and one day be put in the Ring of Honor. But if he doesn't want to be here and $34.2 million over the next two years isn't enough "love", then give me AK-47 from Utah. He plays defense, blocks shots, slashes to the basket and would wake up counting his blessings every day to be a part of what is going on in Phoenix.

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous brenda said...

Although Marion cannot create his own shots and can't guard Tim Duncan, I've always thought Marion was a good player--he became a great player only because of Nash. Nash makes everyone around him better--and once they are traded, you never hear about them again. (Can you say Quinton Richardson and Tim Thomas?) I think Marion is going to totally regret this immature attitude. Dude, you are the highest paid player on the team; you are playing with one of the greatest point guards of all time; you make more money than 90% of people on the planet, you play in a city where the fans love the Phoenix Suns, and you are whining that you are "disrespected?" Unbelievable. And ungrateful. As much as I want to say, "Trade him" I think we are better off with him--for now. Believe me, if he isn't traded and decides to not put his all out on the court--he is going to know about it from the fans. And then he will really wish he had been traded. Grow up Marion!

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't about money. This isn't about Shawn and his lack of understanding that this is a business.

Management didn't say "no comment" when talking about the AK-47 deal, they freely admitted to it. So, they are actively looking for a deal for Shawn. Does Shawn have a beef? Yes, it's clear they are looking to move him. 16 mil or not, when you find out your boss is thinking of getting rid of you, isn't it natural that you are concerned? Only this wasn't the first rumor/truth of the Summer. If they could have gotten Garnett for Marion and others, they would have done it. That, as well, was no secret. Add that up over 4-5 seasons, I understand Marion's pissed.

Is management wrong to try to move Marion? Money wise, no, but if they are on the cusp of a championship as they say, Marion needs to be on this team.

My point-this is all on the brass. They asked for it, they got it.

Marion will not play for the Suns this season. Unless Ben Wallace shows up on our door, F-U Steve Kerr, F-U Sarver, you blew this whole thing.


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