Q&A with the Mavs' Shawn Marion
Shawn Marion left the Raptors to sign a 5-year, $39 million deal with Mavericks
Marion felt business of basketball to blame for his exits from Phoenix and Miami
Now in Dallas, Marion says he's focused on winning title more than his statistics
Shawn Marion may be one of the most versatile players in the NBA, but as he sits in a hotel suite overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he's showing off a different kind of versatility: He watches Scooby-Doo on TV, listens to Michael Jackson on the radio, updates his Twitter page from his computer and talks on the phone all at the same time.
"I like to stay busy," Marion said. "I can't stand still."
That's a good way of describing Marion's basketball career the past two seasons. After spending his first eight and a half years in Phoenix, Marion changed teams three times in 18 months -- first to Miami as part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade in 2008; then to Toronto last February; and finally to Dallas as part of a sign-and-trade that netted him a five-year, $39 million deal in the offseason.
As the Mavericks make one more push at a return to the Finals with one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, Marion may be the player who helps them crack into the conversation with the Lakers and Spurs in the Western Conference. Through three games, including a 94-80 win over the Lakers last Friday, Marion was averaging 16.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. It's a stat line reminiscent of his performance with those up-tempo teams in Phoenix.
"He really fits in well with this team," said Mavs point guard Jason Kidd, who was in Phoenix during Marion's first two years in the league. "He still has it and we have to exploit his talents. He can guard [positions] 1 through 5 and can do whatever you need offensively. He's a tough matchup."
While the Mavs were in Los Angeles last week, Marion spoke with SI.com about playing with Dallas, why he's been on so many teams recently and how the Matrix has evolved now that he's 31.
SI.com: Take me through the decision process to come to Dallas. Why did you fell the Mavericks were the right fit for you?
Shawn Marion: It wasn't really a decision. There wasn't but a few teams making moves this summer. That's basically what it boiled down to. I've been wanting to get to the Mavs for [a while], so when the opportunity came up, that's what happened.
SI.com: Did the lack of demand surprise you?
SM: I knew the economy would have an effect, and they say it's going to affect next summer, too. Realistically, a lot of teams are doing what they have to do to clear up [salary-cap] space for players that they'll probably never get. I was just trying to get in the best situation I can.
SI.com: Why have you wanted to play for the Mavericks for the past couple of years?
SM: They have a nice core group of guys with J-Kidd, Dirk [Nowitzki], Josh [Howard] and Jason Terry, and I thought I'd be a good fit. The only other team I was talking to this summer was Toronto.
SI.com: You were looking to get out of Phoenix before you were finally traded in 2008. Why did you want to leave a team that was so successful? Do you regret it?
SM: What happened in Phoenix is over with. I don't want to keep harping on it. I played eight and a half years there and it's over with. Good luck. That's it. You can't turn back the hands of time. I'm living in the present day and I'm a Dallas Maverick now. Everything else is out the window.
SI.com: You were traded from the Suns to the Heat in the deal that brought Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix. Why didn't things work out in Miami?
SM: I was excited about going to Miami because it was a challenge and something new. Trying to fit in was hard at first, because when I first got there [in February 2008], they were basically tanking the season. Everyone had injuries and they were just trying to get to the end of the season. The following year, it was a clean slate and everybody came in in shape and wanted to get to the postseason, and I knew it was going to happen. When I came in, they were the worst team in the league; and when I got traded [midway through the 2008-09 season], we were fighting for the No. 4 seed. But I know that's part of the deal. I knew I had a big contract [$17.8 million last season) and people wanted to clear up space, so if they weren't going to give me an extension, they might as well trade me.
SI.com: Was that the toughest part of going to Miami, knowing you were in a situation where you weren't going to be contending like you were in Phoenix?
SM: I hadn't been used to being on a team that just went out there to lose like that. At the same time, a lot of the players were hurt. D-Wade [Dwyane Wade] was beat up that whole year. But I think I helped turn it around. I had fun in Miami, but it was just a bad time in my career in terms of my contract. That's all. Trades happen all the time to free up money to do something else. What more can you say or do about it?
SI.com: Did you realize it was business when you started playing with your fourth team in less than two years?
SM: No, I knew that my first year in the league. I had a lot of teammates my first couple of years. You develop a relationship with guys and they leave. You're always going to be closer to some guys than others, and I had friends come and go. I've made a lot of great friends in this league and I see them around, but when you're in the league, you find out real quick that it's a business.
SI.com: Were you happy in Toronto or were you just looking to get out of there after being traded there?
SM: No, I was excited. It was a chance for me to go out there and finish the season [strong]. I knew I was going to be a free agent, so that was out there. Toronto was cold. It's a beautiful city and there's a lot going on there, but it was just cold. If I was in Toronto for the whole season, we would have definitely made it to the postseason.
SI.com: You're wearing jersey No. 0 with the Mavericks. Is there any significance to that?
SM: I wore 31 [for a long time]. I couldn't in Dallas because Jason Terry had it. Jason actually offered it to me, but I think there's a cutoff time because of all the jerseys they made up. I said I would buy up all those jerseys and give them to charity, but the league said if I wanted to change my number, I would have to wait a year. So I did a poll for fans on my Web site and on Twitter on what number I should wear, and the majority said zero.
SI.com: I know some players are attached to their numbers. Are you the same way with 31?
SM: That's my number. It's not even about being attached. It's my logo. Matrix 31 is my logo. It's my LLC, it's my corporation, it's my everything. I've always worn that since Reggie Miller was my favorite player growing up.
SI.com: You've long been one of the game's most physically gifted athletes. As you get older, are you playing differently or adjusting in any way?
Marion: Your game changes as you change. You have to adapt to certain situations. A lot of the stuff that I do, the intangibles, are going to be there, but it depends on what team you go to and what they need you to do. If you go to a good team, they already have a lot of things in place. Sometimes you just have to see what they need and bring that, focus more on rebounding or scoring or whatever they need. That's what I'm doing here. They have a good nucleus in Dallas, and I'm just coming here to add to it.
SI.com: You've always been known as a good defender. What's your approach to playing defense?
SM: I just use my athleticism the best way I can. I came into the league under Cliff Robinson and he was one of the most versatile defenders in the league. Watching him go from guarding a center to a point guard was tough, but I wanted to do that. You don't realize what you can do until you do it, so I started messing around and I took it as a challenge to be a better defender. In the offseason in which we signed Steve Nash and a couple other guys in Phoenix, I came in 25 pounds heavier and I played power forward that year for the first time. I did it because it made us win. It's not about me. I do what's going to help the team. Now, if it's not working, then we have to talk.
SI.com: Who's the toughest guy you've ever had to guard?
SM: I don't want to say any one person, but it's anybody who gets unlimited shots. The guys who are hard to guard are the ones who play no defense. If you have to go against somebody who is going to hide on the defensive end or doesn't have to guard anybody, that's hard because they're fresh and taking 25-30 shots easy. If you make the guy go 6-for-25, you did a good job even if he did get over 20 points.
SI.com: What's it like playing with Jason Kidd again?
SM: It's like we never left each other. J-Kidd's always been one of my favorite players. We reminisce about the old days because we've got memories. Back then I would listen to his stories, [but] I've been playing for 11 years now so I'm killing it with my own stories. It goes by so fast. It's crazy.
SI.com: You've played with both Kidd and Steve Nash. How would you compare them as point guards?
SM: They're totally different. J-Kidd is a walking triple-double. He's one of the bigger guards in the league and can post up as well. Steve is a facilitator who can see the court well. You could make up a checklist and there's going to be some things J-Kidd does better than Steve and some things Steve does better than J-Kidd. Steve and J-Kidd are great because they don't care about turnovers; they make the tough passes and aren't afraid to make mistakes.
SI.com: You shot a lot more three-pointers in Phoenix than in Miami and Toronto. Was that simply a part of the offense and will you be looking to shoot more in Dallas?
SM: Yeah, that was the offense. I'll shoot them if they're there, but I'm not going to be hoisting them up for no reason. In Miami and Toronto, the opportunities weren't there. I was slashing and posting up. In Toronto, I was more incorporated in the offense than I was in Miami. D-Wade was having an unbelievable year in Miami [last season] and he's the star. That's his team and there's nothing wrong with that, but that's the way it is. I was just trying to fit in there even though I wasn't involved like I wanted to be.
SI.com: Do you like the situation with Dallas? You really shined in Phoenix's up-tempo offense and it seems like Dallas is probably more suited for you offensively than Miami or Toronto.
SM: Well, yeah, because [in Phoenix] the ball was always moving and I was getting involved. I don't care who you are -- if you're not getting shots or plays aren't called for you, you're not going to score. It's as simple as that. I just want to win now and get that ring on my finger, so I'm not even worried about the numbers anymore.
NBA Truth & Rumors