DALLAS -- “Weird” is the word used by members of the 2011 title team who are currently employed by the Dallas Mavericks to describe seeing Shawn Marion wearing the wine and gold of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Marion, a man who played such a critical role in delaying LeBron James’ first championship celebration a year, is now a member of King James’ supporting cast.
The Mavs have nothing but fond memories and warm feelings for Marion, who they’ll see tonight when they face the Cavs in a preseason game. Marion didn’t make an All-Star team or put up spectacular numbers during his five years in Dallas, as he did during his run with the Phoenix Suns. But owner Mark Cuban should seriously consider raising the Matrix’s No. 0 to the American Airlines Center rafters when Marion retires to the home he’s building in the Dallas suburbs.
“He’ll go down as one of the all-time great Mavs because of his contributions to a championship team, number one,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Marion, who will rest instead of playing Friday night. “But number two is his versatility and his ability to do so many different things that contribute to winning.”
Marion, a four-time All-Star during his 20/10 days in Phoenix, transitioned to being the ultimate role player in Dallas.
Marion averaged 11.6 points, scoring in double figures each season, despite never being an offensive focal point, getting a bunch of buckets off cuts to the basket or from crashing the offensive glass. He ranked among the NBA’s most effective rebounding small forwards, averaging 7.0 per game during his Dallas tenure, leading the Mavs in that category the last three seasons.
But the first thing anyone associated with the Mavs mentions about Marion is always his defense. Marion never received any official NBA honors for his defensive prowess -- despite some lobbying from the Mavs -- but the championship run wouldn’t have been possible without his performance on that end of the floor.
It’s no wonder James wanted Marion to join him in Cleveland. Marion was the primary defender against him during the most frustrating playoff series of his career, when James averaged 17.8 points -- more than 10 lower than his career postseason average -- as the Mavs stunned the Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals.
The Cavs got a tremendous bargain when they signed Marion for the veteran’s minimum. His paycheck is all the proof you need of how much Marion wants to win another ring.
Marion, 36, would have loved to return to his role as the Mavs’ starting small forward, backup power forward and defensive Swiss Army knife. However, the Mavs made it a summer priority to upgrade, signing 25-year-old Chandler Parsons to a three-year, $46 million deal, counting on him to be a foundation piece for the franchise during his prime.
It was bittersweet saying goodbye to Marion, as it will be when the Mavs cross paths with him in Cleveland.
“It was a great five years,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s one of the most versatile defenders this league has ever seen. We basically had him guard anything from one (point guard) to sometimes even switch on fives (centers). He was the best at that, because he had the strength to play with big guys, but he also had the quickness to defend little guys, and the length.
“He was a special player. And on offense you never had to run a play for him and you look at the stat sheet and ended up with 15-20 points some nights and we didn’t run one single play for him. So he’s a special player. When I heard he signed with Cleveland, we texted a little bit and I wished him all the luck.
“I thanked him for his last couple of years here and I reminded him we’re champs.”