NBA Sunday: Can Shawn Marion Win DPOY?
Shawn Marion for Defensive Player of the Year
Anybody who owned Shawn Marion on a fantasy team back during his heyday as perhaps the most valuable all-around player in the league knows what a defensive asset he is. Statistically he’s always been great with blocks and steals, and because of his size and versatility he’s always been able to stick a number of different positions.
However, despite the fact that he’s always been so good defensively, he’s just now earning real momentum as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, something he could actually win this year with the three-time defending DPOY Dwight Howard hurt at the tail-end of a really frustrating year.
In the Dallas clubhouse, they think their guy is perfect to dethrone the incumbent.
“He’s one of the few people that guards people from the point guard to the power forward. He guards everybody,” said teammate Brendan Haywood. “There’s games where he’s guarded a team’s top point guard, he’s guarded Chris Paul in the same game as Blake Griffin, and I don’t think there’s another defender in the league that is that versatile, that does that and has such a good impact on the game.”
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle has similar praise for his star defender, who has kept the team respectable defensively in the wake of losing center Tyson Chandler, who, ironically, is now Marion’s main competition for Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s been this good, he’s just getting more notice now, probably because Chandler’s gone and we’re actually a better defensive team by numbers,” Carlisle said. “He’s massively important to what we do on both ends of the floor, but as a defender he’s one of a very, very select few.”
But if he’s always been that good on the defensive end, why is he just now getting credit for it?
“We make an emphasis to tell [media] to open your damn eyes,” Marion said. He laughed afterwards, like he’d been bottling that up for a long time. “When you’re used to looking at such a high powered offense like we had in Phoenix, sometimes it’s easy to overshadow the defense because we score so much.”
And make no mistake about it—he wants to win the award.
“It’s important. Always been important,” he said. “I’ve always prided myself on playing defense and guarding my man and containing him and that’s what I do.”
Casual fans don’t realize how excellent Marion has been in this arena all year, but his winning DOPY in 2012 would probably feel more like a lifetime achievement award than just a single-season accolade. The same could be said for Chandler, who has completely transformed yet another team defensively. Howard is very much in the running for his ridiculous stats, but nobody’s ever won this thing four times in a row. Two other players are up for the award, and the Dallas Mavericks have thrown their support behind Shawn Marion.
In a lot of ways, it seems like that’s something the voters for Defensive Player of the Year should consider doing, as well.
What We Know About Seeding Today
There are five days left in the regular season, at which point you’d think most of the playoff picture would be pretty much in place, but that simply isn’t the case. Some things happened on Saturday night that took a few scenarios out of the picture, so here’s a little update on where things stand right now, and what can still change before the matchups lock up late Thursday evening.
In the East, Chicago won and Miami lost, narrowing the Bulls’ magic number to clinch the East down to one. All they have to do is beat one of their last two opponents, and the top seed is theirs. It’s also theirs if Miami loses just one more game.
As for who they’ll face in round one, last night’s win for Philadelphia put them back into a tie with the New York Knicks, but the Knicks hold the tie-breaker. Both teams have three games left, with New York facing Atlanta at Atlanta, the Clippers at home, and Charlotte at Charlotte, while Philly will face New Jersey, Milwaukee, and Detroit, all on the road. In short, we won’t know who gets Chicago and who gets Miami until the very last minute.
The Bucks, meanwhile, are three games out with three games to play, so while they aren’t mathematically eliminated at this point, one win by both New York and Philadelphia officially puts Milwaukee out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Indiana is locked in at 3, and Boston is locked in at 4 as winners of the Atlantic Division. The Hawks are two games up on Orlando for the fifth seed, and without Howard it doesn’t seem likely they’ll make that ground up. Expect Celtics-Hawks and Pacers-Magic to be the 4/5 and 3/6 series for the first round in the East.
As for the Western Conference, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are still battling it out for the top seed, with the Spurs currently a half game up on the Thunder. San Antonio has four left—two at home against the Cavaliers and Blazers, and two on the road at Phoenix and Golden State. That seems like a more favorable schedule than OKC, who’s got only three games left to clinch the conference with a game against the Lakers in L.A. and then two at home against the Kings and Nuggets. It looks good for the Spurs as a one seed, but the two teams are too close to nail that down yet.
Seeds 3 through 5 are still completely fluid, with only one game separating the Lakers, Clippers, and Grizzlies. Memphis, however, is the furthest back with the fewest games left to play (2), so predicting them as a five seed seems most likely. They’ll play in L.A. either way, as it’ll be either the Clippers or Lakers who face them in the first round.
Denver, currently slotted at 6, clinched a playoff spot last night with their win over the Suns, however Dallas’s loss dropped them to the seventh seed for the time being. Those two teams could easily flip-flop with only a few games left.
And as for the West’s final postseason spot, Utah’s exciting overtime win put them on the fast track for a matchup against either the Spurs or Thunder in the first round. Phoenix’s loss put them a full game behind. Both they and the Jazz have two games left, but if Utah wins out, they’re in.
All we know for certain at this point is those two matchups in the Eastern Conference. Literally everything else could change pretty drastically between now and the end of the season. Even before the playoffs begin, we’ve got plenty of drama to keep us entertained. Imagine how it’ll be when we’re actually watching postseason action!
Mike James, Chicago’s Best Part-Time Employee
The only time Mike James’s name has really come up this season was a discussion piece in the midst of New York’s Linsanity period earlier in the year. The Knicks almost cut Lin to sign James as a more experienced back-up point guard, and when things played out the way they did everybody kept saying what a blessing it was that the Knicks didn’t make such an egregious mistake.
The Chicago Bulls, however, have been perfectly happy with James. Happy enough, at least, to add him to the team four different times this season. While he hasn’t been able to contribute much—how many fourth-string point guards do?—he does find himself on the team with the best record in the entire NBA. In short, James is pretty happy Lin stayed with the Knicks, too.
“One of my close friends told me I had the best part time job anybody could have,” James joked before Saturday’s home game against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. “It was a blessing for [the Bulls] to see something inside me and want to continue to keep bringing me back, and obviously that’s something about my character and the person that I am.
“At the same time I had an opportunity to go home and be with my family, stay in shape, stay working and then come back to work, so yeah it’s been up and down but at the same time everything has a plan and purpose behind it and everything has reasoning.”
The reason probably wasn’t always clear, however, especially when James swallowed his pride earlier in the season to sign with the Erie Bayhawks of the NBDL. Between that and a stint in Turkey last year, he couldn’t have been sure he’d ever get back to the NBA, but James said his career as a journeyman prepared him for the crazy nature of his on-again, off-again employment with Chicago.
“My whole story has been untraditional,” he said, adding, “so I’ve been swallowing my pride since day one in order to get to this point… I’ve been through this position over and over again in my career. It almost becomes like this is the story of my life, especially the story of my NBA career.”
Not every player could handle that sort of uncertainty with the poise of James, but he’s remained remarkably positive all season long, and really just wants to be given the opportunity to contribute to a winner no matter how negligible those contributions may seem.
“You just have to have to stay ready,” he said. “It’s an honor that the best team in the league kept calling me back. It could’ve easily been one of the bottom teams that could’ve kept calling me back, but knowing that it’s a team that’s really trying to win an NBA championship really seeing something in me to say, you know what? Maybe he really can.
“I look at myself as an insurance blanket, but I’m always going to stay ready. However coach uses me, I’m always ready.”