Game Thread: Heat (7-8) at Suns (11-5)

Heat 107, Suns 92





Shawn Marion embodied Phoenix Suns basketball for eight and a half long years after being selected ninth overall by the Suns in the 1999 NBA Draft, much longer than the average life span for an NBA player in one city.

He provided energy during the Backcourt 2000 years with Jason Kidd and Penny Hardaway and later became the high-flying Matrix and defensive specialist critically needed to run with Steve Nash and make Mike D’Antoni’s system as successful as it was.

Marion, a four-time All-Star, was a durable fan favorite who ranks second to Alvan Adams in games, rebounds and steals and fourth to Walter Davis, KJ and Adams in points on Phoenix’s all-time lists.

But even as the Matrix was filling up the stat sheet and the Suns were piling up 60-win seasons and deep playoff runs, Marion was never happy to be the third banana behind Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

It’s too bad because Marion was one of the best third bananas in the league, a player whom you could practically write in a 20-10 for every night.

But Marion wanted more.

There was the fateful interview in which he could not decide if he would rather win with the Suns as third banana or lead a bad team (I know Dwyane Wade is the leader of the Heat, but I wonder how Marion feels now), then all the trade demands and the whining.

The Diesel and the Matrix will face their former teams for the first time since February's deal. (Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Diesel and the Matrix will face their former teams for the first time since February's deal. (Victor Baldizon/Getty Images)

Ultimately the Suns had to trade him to cleanse themselves of Marion’s negative energy and also to expand their window due to the likelihood of Marion opting out last year or leaving with nothing in return this year.

The grass has not been greener on the other side for Marion, whose averages of 12.4 points and 8.9 boards per game are the lowest since his rookie season, as he toils on a sub-.500 Eastern Conference team while being subjected to more trade rumors.

To put it bluntly, it will be very, very interesting to see what kind of reaction Shawn Marion receives from the Phoenix faithful when he returns to town for the first time Friday as a member of the Miami Heat.

“It’ll be strange,” Nash told the Arizona Republic. “He’s had one of the greatest Suns careers of all-time. I’d imagine he’d have a great ovation. If he doesn’t, I’d be extremely disappointed.”

With the way things ended and because his trade ultimately finished off the Suns’ “Seven Seconds or Less” system, I would not be surprised to hear a smattering of boos amongst a majority of cheers tonight.

On the other side you have Shaq facing the team he led to the 2006 NBA Championship for the very first time.

That could be good news for the Suns, as Shaq went for 25 and 18 in his first game against the Magic and 24 and 11 in his first game against the Lakers after leaving them, both wins for his new teams.

Just like Marion, you know Shaq will be extra motivated to face his ex-club. And just like Marion, Shaq did not leave on the best of terms, expressing his satisfaction in not having to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis anymore after the trade.

Shaq should have a field day because he will be guarded by 6-foot-8, 235-pound “center” Udonis Haslem, better known as Miami’s power forward during the Shaq era. That’s because he actually is a power forward.

Shaq has five inches and at least 90 pounds on Haslem, whom the Daddy must have faced a time or two in practice. The three centers Haslem has faced who are 7-foor-1 or taller have averaged 16.0 points and 10.7 boards per game, and of those three only Yao could be considered a quality offensive player.

And it’s not like you can throw Michael Beasley on Shaq, as the rookie wasn’t picked second overall in June’s draft for his defense.

So Shaq should dominate down low, and I expect Shawn Marion to have the type of game that has electrified the US Airways crowd so many times before as the Matrix aims to prove that trading him was a mistake.

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