Suns News

Marion's Play Proves Net Worth

Shawn Marion hasn't let his big contract affect his hunger to succeed.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Bob Young
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 25, 2002 12:00 AM
Bryan Colangelo, president and general manager of the Suns, admits that he was curious to see how forward Shawn Marion would react to the six-year, $79 million contract extension Marion signed in the off-season.

Coach Frank Johnson will tell you he was flat-out worried about it.

They have seen what has happened to players such as Shawn Kemp and Vin Baker, who signed big contracts and then went into semi-retirement while drawing those big checks. And then there are the Kevin Garnetts and the Shaquille O'Neals of the league, who get huge amounts of money and still seem like a bargain.

"Players can go two different directions when they get a big contract," Colangelo said. "Shawn has gone in a positive direction. He's really taken his game to another level."

Marion has played during the preseason, which wraps up tonight when the Golden State Warriors visit America West Arena, like a man out to prove he's worth every cent.

"Shawn has been fantastic," Johnson said. "I forget that he's a young guy sometimes, but he's showing our other young guys how to play hard and practice hard. He has really stepped up. He's been unbelievable."

That is a relief for Johnson, who had his worries about giving a 24-year-old player entering only his fourth season in the NBA the maximum allowable contract.

"No question," he said. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a concern."

Apparently, it didn't need to be.

"Nah," Marion said. "I'm not thinking about that. I'm still going out and doing the stuff I did to get here. That's what I'm focusing on. I'm just playing.

"I'm still hungry, man. That contract is a step forward for me, but I've got a lot of goals I set that I'm still trying to achieve.

"That's a step financially for me, but that's not my main goal right now."

Marion's primary concern is getting the Suns back on track after a 36-46 season that left the club out of the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

Of course, the Suns believe Marion is worth the money and is on the verge of breaking through as an All-Star.

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They're not alone in that assessment.

John Hollinger, the basketball editor at CNNSI, produced an exhaustive look at every NBA team and player in his Pro Basketball Prospectus, which he launched this year.

In it, he breaks down players according to traditional statistical categories but also goes deeper by calculating rebound rates, assist and turnover ratios, points per shot attempt, and so on, to arrive at an overall assessment he calls the Player Efficiency Rating.

Bottom line, he rates Marion as one of the top 20 players in the NBA and writes that he should have been on the Western Conference All-Star team last season ahead of Sacramento's Peja Stojakovic and Utah's Karl Malone.

"Marion is an excellent, underrated player," Hollinger writes. "Marion is as good as they come rebounding from the small forward position, he shoots for a high percentage and his turnover ratio is consistently one of the league's lowest at his position.

"He also is a vastly underrated defender; the Suns did very well against opposing small forwards all season."

Marion has focused on his defense in the preseason, taking the defensive assignment on Kobe Bryant against the Lakers and on Jalen Rose of Chicago.

"I'm trying, man," he said, smiling. "We're emphasizing defense. Offense wins games, defense wins championships."

COPYRIGHT 2002, AZCENTRAL.COM. Used with permission.