Shawn Marion makes Kidd/Carter combo work

DALLAS – At first glance, a backcourt featuring Jason Kidd and Vince Carter appears to be an ill fit at their advance age.

After all, somebody has to guard all the good point guards the Mavs will see. And almost all of the Western Conference contenders have one: Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, the Clippers’ Chris Paul, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Denver’s Ty Lawson, Houston’s Kyle Lowry.

Shawn Marion can solve a lot of problems, including the mismatch issues with the geezer guard combo. At least, that's what the early evidence indicates.

We got a glimpse of how the Mavs might approach the opposing point guard problem on Friday night, when Kidd returned from a six-game absence. The Mavs stuck with Carter as the starting shooting guard instead of putting Delonte West in that spot and gave Marion the assignment of defending rookie sensation Ricky Rubio.

“This is nothing new,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Marion’s ability to be a defensive problem-solver regardless of position. “He’s been one of the most versatile players that we’ve had at both ends of the floor in the game in the last decade. It helps. He’s always up for those kinds of challenges, too.”

It worked wonderfully against the Timberwolves. Rubio had a so-so outing, scoring 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting and dishing out eight assists. Meanwhile, Kidd keyed a Mavs win, as Dallas outscored the Timberwolves by 23 points in Kidd’s 27 minutes.

Marion’s ability to defend point guards keeps Kidd’s lack of elite quickness from being exposed and limits the wear and tear on the 38-year-old. It allows the Mavs to continue starting Carter, who has by far the team’s best plus-minus this season, and ensures that West will be available to play all the backup point guard minutes.

It worked against Rubio. What about against an elite point guard like Paul? We’re about to find out.