Suns News

Marion Leads Way as Suns Roll to Win

By Bob Young
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 21, 2000

FARGO, N.D. Occasionally, Shawn Marion has one of those rookie flashbacks, like the needless foul he committed in the final seconds of the Suns' 86-77 preseason victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Fargodome on Friday night.

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But Marion, the Suns' second-year forward, also showed why he may be poised to have a break-out season.

The 6-foot-7 forward scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and recorded three steals as the Suns took apart the Timberwolves for their third consecutive preseason victory. Marion even ran the offense for much of the fourth quarter, with newcomer Tony Delk working off the ball.

"It's something I worked on in the summer league," Marion said. "It just gives us more versatility."

Don't expect to be seeing Marion running the offense much when the regular season begins, but it is likely he'll get some minutes in the backcourt as the season progresses when Tom Gugliotta returns from knee surgery.

"When we get Googs back, we'll have Shawn, Cliff (Robinson), Googs, Corie Blount and Rodney at two positions," said Coach Scott Skiles. "It's going to be tough to figure out what the (playing time) mix is going to be.

"We anticipate Shawn playing some in the backcourt, not necessarily handling the ball that much but playing a little bit at (shooting) guard. Clearly, he does a lot of good things out there. At least that way, he can slide into the backcourt and give us a little more depth. We liked him there in the summer league doing it some."

Skiles asked Marion to improve his ball-handling skills during the off-season, and Marion concentrated on it during the summer league.

"He has improved," Skiles said. "Where he's gotten better is open-floor ballhandling, rebounding and pushing the ball up himself. He's not just looking to outlet it to Jason (Kidd) automatically. He's looking to push it some, which is great because he's so quick."

Marion also has made strides defensively. He'd been effective as a shot blocker and rebounder, but he often relied more on athleticism than being in the right place defensively.

"It's been my experience that a lot of gifted athletes sometimes wander on defense because they can make up for it with their quickness," Skiles said. "They may not be great fundamental defenders, but he's come a long way in a short period of time."

It was veteran Clifford Robinson who got the Suns going on a 21-4 third-quarter barrage that opened up a 20-point gap. He hit three consecutive Phoenix baskets, the final one coming from three-point range, to get the run started. Then Marion scored 10 of the Suns next 12 points to keep it going.

"Our starters have been impressive," Skiles said.

Copyright 2000 ARIZONA CENTRAL. Used with permission.