Suns News

Marion Best Deal Suns Never Made

All-Star forward Shawn Mariona and the Suns host the Bucks tonight (7 p.m.) at America West Arena.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE Photos)
By Mike Tulumello
East Valley Tribune
Nov. 24, 2004

If it's true that the best deals sometimes are the ones that never are made, then the Suns seem to have made a great one this past summer:

They didn't trade Shawn Marion. Not only has Marion been a key to the Suns' defense — for example, he pretty much single-handedly shut down Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas last week — he's the NBA's No. 4 rebounder with 12.1 boards per game, and he's averaging 18.9 points to boot. Coach Mike D'Antoni, asked if he's glad to still have Marion around, smiled broadly and said, "I guess you could say that."

D'Antoni says the trade speculation was over-heated, that a deal was never close. But he admitted that, "There was a little jockeying here and there. . . . It's management's job to explore everything."

It's known that Marion's name came up in the Tracy McGrady trade talks with Orlando, but Suns officials said they weren't willing to part with both Marion and Joe Johnson.

It's also believed that the Suns, even though they needed a center, weren't willing to deal Marion for Erick Dampier of Golden State in a sign-and-trade arrangement.

"At the end of the day, it (a trade) wasn't good for us," D'Antoni said. That's not surprising, considering that Marion, excluding his injury-marred rookie season, has career averages of 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Last season, he was one of only two NBA players who ranked in the top 30 in points (19.0, 19th), rebounds, (9.3, 14th), steals (2.1, second), blocks (1.3, 27th) and minutes (40.6, second). Kevin Garnett, the league's MVP, was the other.

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Right now, "His rebounding is phenomenal," D'Antoni said. and he's effectively covering bigger opponents down low and smaller ones on the perimeter. "He's playing great," the Suns coach said.

Beyond numbers, Marion has the sort of quick, repetitive leaping ability that is virtually unmatched in the game.

"There are only two or three players in the world, that can do what he can do, if that," D'Antoni said. "My gosh, he's good!"

There's also the fact that Marion has never embarrassed the club — more important than ever in light of recent NBA events — and has missed only eight games in the past four-plus seasons because of injury.

Considering all this, it's seems a wonder his name ever came up in trade talks at all.

Then again, Marion is a "maximum" player contractually, having signed a six-year, $86 million extension that runs through 2008-09.

Some in the NBA, even some Suns' fans, have been known to question Marion's value along these lines because he seldom takes over offensively down the stretch of games. Marion knows the score: "Once you sign an extension, you'll be talked about in trades, especially when you're a 'max' player," he says.

"I knew it was a possibility. It's part of the business.

"I'm definitely glad I'm still here."

So are the Suns and their fans.

Whether the Suns can afford Marion's contract in the long run is another story.

When Amare Stoudemire's presumed maximum contract kicks in two seasons from now, it's possible the Suns won't be able to keep all five of their biggest-name players: Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Marion, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson.

But that's a subject for another day.

COPYRIGHT 2004, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.