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Friday, May 2, 2014
This might be it for Marion with the Mavs

By Tim MacMahon

Shawn Marion
Shawn Marion's defensive versatility has been on full display in this series against the Spurs.
DALLAS -- This might be the last night that Shawn Marion wears a Dallas Mavericks uniform.

Not that he’s sentimental about the situation entering the must-win Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs.

“I’m not looking at that right now,” said Marion, whose five-year contract expires this summer. “We’ll talk about that when it’s done.”

Regardless of when it ends, Marion’s tenure with the Mavs is worth celebrating.

When he arrived in Dallas in the summer of 2009, many considered him a former star on the decline, as he was coming off brief, unsatisfying stints in Miami and Toronto following his glory days in Phoenix. “The Matrix,” a four-time All-Star whose scoring average soared as high as 21.8 points per game with the Suns one season, redefined himself as a great role player in Dallas.

Dallas doesn’t win the 2011 championship without Marion’s sensational work as a defensive stopper against a parade of superstars including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The fact that Marion has never been named to an All-Defensive team is met with great dismay within the Mavs organization, which lobbied for him to be Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.

The defensive versatility of Marion has been on full display again in this series, when he has defended each of the Spurs’ “Big Three” at times, opening games on point guard Tony Parker, occasionally guarding power forward Tim Duncan when Marion shifts to the 4 and spending time on wing Manu Ginobili when the Spurs’ sixth man got hot. Precious few players in NBA history could respond to such a wide variety of defensive assignments by doing a respectable job on three Hall of Famers.

“We’d love to have five Marions and put them out there and guard all of their guys,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

Marion’s scoring average dipped to 11.3 points per game over the last five seasons, well below his career norm, but he accepted that he was an offensive afterthought with the Mavs. He rarely got plays run for him, getting his points primarily off running the floor, slashing to the basket and grabbing offensive rebounds.

From Mark Cuban on down, Marion is held in extremely high esteem by the Mavs. There is mutual interest in re-signing Marion, who turns 36 next week. But he’d have to take a significant pay cut from his $9.3 million salary to stay in Dallas as the Mavs attempt to rebuild a championship roster around Dirk Nowitzki, the only other player remaining from the 2011 title roster.

Marion is likely to receive interest from other contenders, such as potentially the Miami Heat, who are expected to be in the market for a versatile, defensive-minded forward with championship credentials to replace the retiring Shane Battier.

There will be plenty of time for Marion to focus the possibilities in free agency. That’s the furthest thing from his mind entering Friday night’s Game 6.

Marion’s focus is on doing everything possible to extend his Mavs tenure at least one more game.