In The Matrix’s Defense
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NEW YORK, N.Y., Feb. 3, 2007-- The Suns' Shawn Marion is known for his defense like Paris Hilton is known for her voice.

As a vital part of Phoenix's 111.4 points per game show, the signature image of Marion is "The Matrix" throwing down a Steve Nash pass, not Marion providing help-side defense when Nash gets passed by his man.

Maybe that should change.

Marion averages 2.2 steals per game (second in the league) and he has at least two blocks in five out of the Suns' last nine games. Not to mention his 8.1 defensive boards per game.

"He has the ability to be able guard everybody," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni told me before a game against the Knicks recently.

"He goes from point guard to two-guard to the three, the four and the five. He's literally guarded everybody on the court.

That's very special. There's only a couple of players that can do that and he's definitely the best at it."

Marion makes just enough plays per game on the defensive end to make it almost impossible for the opposing team to keep pace with Phoenix's potent offense.

Let the Defensive Player of the Year campaign begin.

And now, these are the 10 things I learned from last week ...

1. Welcome (back) to Miami

It worked with Alonzo Mourning.

The Heat brought back another one of the all-time great players in franchise history in Eddie Jones. Jones was waived by Memphis on Jan. 30 and it did not take him long to make the trek back to South Beach.

Jones' last stint in Miami spanned five seasons from 2000-05 and was quite successful as he appeared in 352 games (347 starts) and averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.33 steals in 37.1 minutes including three playoff appearances.

The addition of Jones to the roster gives Miami a whopping five players with 10 years experience or more as Jones in his 13th season joins Gary Payton (17th), Shaquille O'Neal (15th), Mourning (15th) and Antoine Walker (11th).

It's almost like if The Golden Girls added Angela Lansbury to the cast.

2. Shaq the sheriff

If only Armed & Famous could have gotten Shaquille O'Neal as one of its celebrity officers maybe CBS wouldn't have cancelled it so soon.

O'Neal continued his crime-fighting ways on Sunday as he helped detain a hit-and-run driver after his Cadillac Escalade was hit as he emptied luggage from the car early Sunday morning after returning from an away game in Chicago.

According to the Miami Herald, O'Neal got back into his Escalade after it was struck and tailed the offenders for several minutes before they finally stopped at a gas station.

3. Rip's facemask

When I chronicled the tale of Richard Hamilton's facemask many of you readers wrote in and asserted that Rip wears the mask for medical reasons because the cartilage in his nose after three breaks is next-to-nothing.

I was under the impression that he wore the facemask out of familiarity.

To clear things up, I talked to Hamilton before the Pistons played the Nets on Wednesday. Here is our conversation:

What is the purpose of the mask now? Do the trainers still make you wear it?
Rip: I ain't got to wear it if I don't want to. You know, it's just something that, you know, I broke my nose so many times, I don't want to break it again. Plus, I'm used to it. It's like my cape.

Do you wear it in practice as well?
Rip: No. Mostly the games.

Have there ever been games where you just get tired of it and throw it off?
Rip: Not at all. I'm kind of used to it now. Like I said, it's like my cape. I need it when I play.

You ever think about if one day you make the Hall of Fame and there is a bust of you or an oil painting and it will have the mask too?
Rip: Yeah, I mean it's kind of like my thing. It's my twist. At first, everybody never wanted to wear a mask. Now, people break their nose and you see all types of different masks and stuff like that. So it's kind of like my thing.

4. Raptors sweep the awards

This was a shocker. The Toronto Raptors, a team that went 27-55 last season, swept the January monthly awards.

That's right. Chris Bosh got Player of the Month, Andrea Bargnani got Rookie of the Month and Sam Mitchell got Coach of the Month.

It's almost inconceivable.

It would be like a movie taking home Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director -- only that movie would have to be decidedly mediocre throughout but then get good at the end because the Raptors went 10-5 in January, but are just 23-23 overall.

Think of the Raptors as The Life of David Gale.

5. Mutombo not done yet

At 40 years old and with his contract set to expire at the end of this season, his 16th in the league, it seemed that age and circumstances would dictate the end of Dikembe Mutombo's career.

Well, it looks like Deke is set to give Grandfather Time the finger wave.

Mutombo told the Houston Chronicle this week that he is considering returning next season as Yao Ming's backup.

"Things have gone to our favor," Mutombo was quoted as saying in the newspaper. "The team is playing great. The defense is going good. I'm playing well. That changed a lot. That changed my perception of myself and the future and how I want to exit the game. That's why I have to make a decision, should I exit now or should I play one more year.

"At this point, it seems like I'll be coming to play one more year," he told the Chronicle.

Mutombo is averaging his most rebounds per game (6.8) since the 2001-02 season when he hauled in 10.8 a contest.

I hope this goes well for him, but something in the back of my head is telling me it might be a bad idea. When Full House was in the midst of its steady decline, the producers didn't decide to come back for another season just because Joey Gladstone's "cut-it-out" line got some laughs again.

6. Ben Gordon rising

Even though Ben Gordon wasn't selected as an All-Star reserve, (but he made my list), Bulls fan should still be looking forward to seeing No.7 on the court in February.

Gordon's scoring average has gone up every month this season. After only six points on Opening Night (in October), Air Gordon's average lifted to 17.4 points per game in 13 November games, to 23.1 in 17 December games, to 24.1 in 15 games in January.

As Gordon has improved, so too has Chicago. The Bulls are 27-20 after starting the season 3-9.

7. No Kobe in New York

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers made their annual trip to New York City to play the Knicks on Tuesday, but Kobe wasn't in Madison Square Garden come tip-off.

Bryant was suspended one game for elbowing Manu Ginobili in the face on the last play of regulation on Sunday when L.A. played the Spurs.

Bryant's absence was not totally counterproductive however, as Lamar Odom got a game as the No. 1 option to try to get re-integrated into the Lakers' triangle offense.

Odom scored 25 points, but the Knicks prevailed 99-94.

One New York fan held up a sign that said, "Thanks For The Win, Manu's Face."

L.A. is losing ground in the West as it has only won one out of its last five, and that was against the Celtics who are mired in a 14-game slump.

8. Where's Hakim Warrick?

The rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam were announced this week and in my mind there is one guy that was certainly snubbed.

No Hakim Warrick? He averages 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 25.9 minutes and has had his role fluctuate this season depending on which coach was at the helm and whether or not Pau Gasol was available to play.

After starting Memphis' first 23 games while Gasol nursed a broken foot, Warrick was placed on the bench. He has relished the role and when Gasol couldn't give it a go on Jan. 26 because of a sore hamstring, Warrick stepped in to start and put up 27 points and seven rebounds on Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

He has favorable numbers to three of the sophomores who made it in Luther Head (11.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 28.9 minutes), Danny Granger (12.9, 4.8, 32.1) and Andrew Bynum (8.3, 6.4, 21.5).

9. Collins brothers clash

It didn't get quite as much attention as Eli vs. Peyton, but the NBA had its own brotherly showdown last week when the Nets traveled to Utah.

Jarron Collins had five points, one rebound and one assist in 16 minutes for the Jazz while nearly identical twin (asides from the cornrows) Jason finished with two points, four rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes for New Jersey.

Neither line is really worth calling up mom about, but Jason takes home the bragging rights temporarily because Vince Carter won it for the Nets at the buzzer.

10. Fantastic finish for Flash

Remember in Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd leaves Harry on the side of the highway as he motors away in a big, shaggy, dog-shaped van?

He trades in the van for a moped and when he returns to pick his buddy up on the tiny bike, Harry says, "Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!"

Dwayne Wade's production against the Cavaliers through three quarters on Thursday couldn't get any worse, but Wade turned it around and totally redeemed himself.

With eight minutes to go in the game, Miami trailed by 12 and Wade already had 11 turnovers (he finished with a franchise-record 12 miscues).

But, Wade took over and scored 24 points in the fourth to finish with 41 for the game and secure a 92-89 win over LeBron and the Cavs.

Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Get at me.