As the Phoenix Suns steel themselves for what promises to be a killer best-of-seven series against longtime nemesis San Antonio, The Matrix, a.k.a. Shawn Marion, pops into our sports-addled head.
Once an almost-superstar with the Suns, and now relegated to a glorified journeyman role with the recently eliminated Dallas Mavericks, Marion's departure from Phoenix in February 20008 was fraught with drama.
Much of it was caused by Marion (in the photo) himself, who immaturely referred publicly to his "bad marriage" with his team after eight well-paid seasons.
Remember just before the 2007-08 season, when Marion told the Arizona Republic, "I love my fans in Phoenix, but I think it's time for me to move on."
At that point, he was the Suns' highest-paid player ($34.2 million for the two years remaining on his contract), but he wanted more (God, how much money do these guys need for their `families?')
Marion's agent asked Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr to add something in the neighborhood of $60 million and three years to the already super-sweet deal.
Instead, Kerr traded the Matrix to the Miami Heat with a throw-in player for Shaquille O'Neal.
Marion bounced over to the Toronto Raptors last season, and then signed a five-year, $39 million to play for the Mavs this season.
That would be just less than $8 million a year guaranteed to a player who, while extremely athletic and capable of doing some amazing things on the court, never seemed to have what it took to take a team to the next level.
In Phoenix's case, that would mean to the promised land of the NBA Finals (let's not get too greedy--yet).
A thought: Steve Nash (a healthy Steve Nash, unlike what we're seeing at the moment) made Marion look much better than he ever was.
Marion's stats for this season suggest a player in decline (five points and three rebounds per game under his career average of 17.3 and 9.6, points respectively.
But it's what we saw on the court during the just-completed Dallas-San Antonio series that made us tip our cap to Mr. Kerr for moving Mr. Marion when he did.
Marion was all but invisible in the Mavs' do-or-die game against the Spurs -- six points and four rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
He was anything but a franchise player.
We are much more comfortable with the Suns' current top-line players -- Amare, Steve, Jason Richardson -- going into the San Antonio series.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
So, a tip of our collective cap (for the moment) goes to.....Steve Kerrrrrrr.
Now, let's beat the Spurs when it counts for once, or that hat tip?
Tonight's home game against the Spurs will air on TNT at 7:30.