Shawn Marion: The Matrix Reloaded
With Dirk Nowitzki on the shelf trying to strengthen his ailing right knee, Mavericks forward Shawn Marion has turned back the clock to shoulder the offensive load for Dallas.
For over eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns, Marion – nicknamed The Matrix early in his career due to his innate ability to do virtually limitless things on the court – lit up the NBA with his stout offensive repertoire. Marion, who averaged over 17 points in seven of eight seasons with the Suns, did a little bit of everything in the prime of his career and – with the Mavericks’ superstar injured – the Matrix has taken it upon himself to keep this Mavs offense afloat.
“He’s been doing great for us all season, but he’s our best player right now,” Mavericks’ point guard Jason Kidd said when queried about Marion’s offensive outburst recently.
Even though he’s been mostly relied upon to be the perimeter defensive stopper for this Mavericks’ team, Marion has shown recently that he still knows how to put the ball in the basket on a consistent basis.
This past Monday, in a 93-87 victory against his former Suns, Marion drained four three-pointers en route to his highest scoring game of the season with 29 points. To put that sort of three-point barrage in perspective, Marion had just eight makes from behind the arc combined in his first two seasons with the Mavs.
“Last year, we basically said look for the good [three-point attempts],” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “This year, he’s got in a real good flow from the beginning of the year. It’s great for him; it’s great for the spacing of our team and he’s a confident guy. If you give him shots, he’s going to aggressively step into them.”
That would be an understatement.
With Nowitzki’s scoring prowess noticeably missing from the lineup, the Mavericks have struggled to find consistency on the offensive end. However Marion, with his set of quirky shots and flip-ins around the basket, has been one of the few bright spots on that end of the floor because of his willingness to take charge offensively.
Over the last five games (the first being the hobbled Nowitzki’s final game against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 19 before going on the shelf for the last four contests), Marion’s production on the court has risen substantially. After scoring just over nine points per through the first 15 games of the season, Marion has scored in double figures in each of the last five contests while averaging more than 19 points a contest and shooting over 54 percent from the floor – including 50 percent from three-point range.
“I don’t really have to do all that stuff with [Nowitzki] in,” Marion said. “We’ve got such a deep team; it’s just a matter of who’s getting the opportunity. If you go back and look at my career numbers, when I get touches and stuff, when I get shots, I score a lot.
“I’m just doing what I can to help my team the best way.”
What’s even more important is this team’s success in the win column even with their ailing superstar riding the pine in a custom-fit suit. Dallas is 3-1 thus far without Nowitzki, with the former MVP eying Sunday’s night’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs for his possible return.
Last season, when Nowitzki missed a career-high nine games due to the same injured knee, the Mavericks were a dreadful 2-7. That kind of team-wide letdown hasn’t reared its ugly head this year, and Marion has been crucial to that success.
“My teammates are looking for me,” Marion said. “I’ve been able to do a lot of different things on the floor. This is about just helping my teammates.”
While his throwback level of offensive play isn’t enough to sustain Dallas for the long haul, the fact that this team knows it can rely on Marion on the offensive end for long stretches will only help the Mavs down the road.
This is true especially as this frenzied season gets closer to completion and the playoff-tested champs look to defend their crown.
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