The return of the Matrix?

Could the Matrix be set to be reloaded in Phoenix? (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Could the Matrix be set to be reloaded in Phoenix? (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Let me preface this post by saying I understand this is very much so a long shot and that Dallas appears to be the favorite for Matrix, according to reports by ESPN.com and CBSSports.com.

I get that, and with that I’d like to say Suns fans should not get too excited about what I’m about to write, as perfect as it would be.

But unless the Mavericks offer him one hell of an over-market contract, it would be in the best interests of all parties for Shawn Marion to sign a one-year deal at the midlevel exception with the Suns.

This topic has certainly taken off in the Suns portion of the blogosphere after KTAR’s John Gambadoro reported it could be a possibility. Phoenix Stan of Bright Side has started a TweetTrix campaign for Suns fans to tell Marion how much he’s missed here in Phoenix.

ValleyoftheSuns, of course, fully supports that mission, which just may be working judging by @matrix31‘s final tweet of the night: “Had a good meal long day callin it a nite thanks for all the positive tweets holla.”

Along with a whole slew of support for a return of the Matrix on Bright Side, Fanster’s Greg Esposito weighed in the topic but would rather the Suns sign Hill and a big than Marion.

Although it has yet to become a hot topic among the national media members, ESPN’s Ric Bucher may have subliminally started to break the story by mistweeting that there’s a 50 percent chance of Marion going to the Suns in a sign-and-trade, only he meant to say Dallas instead of the Suns.

But hey, look on the bright side, there’s a 50 percent chance that Marion’s last chance at playing for above the MLE goes by the wayside, according to Bucher.

Now here’s why Marion should return to the place of his greatest exploits.

We all know he won’t be making anywhere near the $17.8 million he grossed last year, which made him the highest-paid small forward not named Paul Pierce.

In fact, at this point so long as Mark Cuban doesn’t really empty his pockets, the best he will do is the MLE or a bit more with Dallas. Teams with cap space like Portland and Oklahoma City have shown no interest in the Matrix.

That’s partially because the vast majority of the NBA is waiting for the much ballyhooed Summer of 2010, in which seemingly ever good player in the league will be a free agent.

So many teams will have cap space that I feel like the teams that miss out on the cream of the crop will start giving crazy contracts to guys like Shawn Marion just so they don’t miss out on an impact player altogether. It used to happen all the time, like when the big-market Bulls missed on every major free agent earlier in the decade and then settled for Brad Miller and Ron Mercer.

Shawn Marion should not settle for any long-term deal right now, particularly one in the MLE range, when he could potentially land his last mega contract (or close to it) next offseason.

That being said, Matrix needs to rebuild his value, and there’s no question where he could best do just that.

In the seven full seasons he played in Phoenix after his rookie season, Marion always averaged in the 17-22 ppg range. He put up just 14.3 to end 07-08 in Miami, and then 12.0 in Miami and 14.3 in Toronto last year. Even his stellar board numbers went down last year, averaging less than nine in both stops.

This is a guy who just a few years ago averaged a tick under 22 and 12 for the Amare-less Suns of 05-06. He put up a 17.5 and 9.8 in 06-07 and was even averaging 15.8 and 9.8 the year he left the Suns.

Clearly, Marion has been at his best in Phoenix with a point guard like Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, and thus there’s nowhere better for him to rebuild his value than in Phoenix’s run-and-gun system as opposed to Dallas’ more structured offense, even with an aging Kidd.

He’s never been a particularly good one-on-one player, but he’s always been one of the best in the league at finding ways to score in transition.

Just like Marion hasn’t been the same since he left Phoenix, neither have the Suns. Marion left a Suns team atop the West, and all he’s missed has been one measly playoff victory.

The Suns probably underestimated just how difficult it would be to replace him (he never was replaced), and they still have a gaping hole for a guy like Marion who can guard Tony Parker on one play and Tim Duncan the next.

Good thing there’s a guy on the market on the cheap who does just that. And, of course, his name is Shawn Marion.

The biggest reason this won’t happen is because the Suns would basically be taking the same hit they received in savings from the Shaq deal, and isn’t that ironic.

A one-year contract at the full MLE of $5.85 million times two because of the luxury tax hit for a grand total of an $11.7 mil loss would more than cancel out all the cap relief from the Shaq deal.

If the Suns signed Marion, it might behoove Robert Sarver to forget his checkbook altogether as he said he would for a contender and deal Ben Wallace’s Expiring Contract for Tyson Chandler to put together a lineup of Nash-J-Rich-Trix-Amare-Chandler with a loaded bench that would be in my mind better than any Suns lineup of the D’Antoni Era, both starting and on the bench.

That would be a team that can make a dent in the West and a team that would get one last gasp to win a championship in Seven Seconds or Less.

Of course, it also would leave the Suns susceptible to the Nash-Marion-Amare Triumvirate all leaving next season for nothing while putting a major dent in their 2010 flexibility, but hey, at least nobody is worried about OKC owning the Suns’ pick under this scenario. Plus, if you have a chance to put together a title contender when you’re looking at rebuilding in the immediate future, you have to do it.

The other reason why this won’t happen aside from reason No. 1, which is Robert Sarver’s checkbook, is that both sides will really have to swallow their pride.

Bringing back Marion with the money saved from the Shaq deal while going 100 percent back to Seven Seconds or Less would label Kerr as a complete moron for making the Shaq trade and would be the biggest admission possible that they screwed up with that trade and thereby lost two potential title runs.

Marion taking a below-market deal to come back while completely understanding that Amare has surpassed him on the alpha dog food chain for good while also knowing that he will never be the best player (or possibly second best) on any good team also won’t be easy for him.

But it would say a whole lot about the maturity of both parties if they make this work, and it would really be a shame if they don’t.

After all, if we’ve learned anything in the past year and a half it’s that Shawn Marion isn’t the same without the Suns just as the Suns aren’t the same without Shawn Marion.

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