Steve Nash’s odyssey for a championship is well known in these parts, but let’s not forget about his old running mate Shawn Marion’s quest now that the Matrix is four wins away from becoming an NBA champion.
Marion combined with Nash and Amare Stoudemire to form a devastating Big Three that perfectly fit Mike D’Antoni’s style, and his monster 2005-06 when he averaged 21.8 and 11.9 without Amare solidified himself as an all-time Suns great.
Marion never felt completely respected in Phoenix with so much credit going to Nash and Stoudemire and when the team did not want to give him a three-year, $60 million extension, he wanted out as the 2007-08 season began.
That Suns eventually granted that wish by rolling the dice on the Shaq trade, and Marion became a shell of his former self in stops with Miami and Toronto.
Now onto Dallas and at the age of 33, Matrix has finally embraced the super role player role. He can still explode for 26 and eight as he did in Wednesday’s clincher, but his primary value comes in the form of being an energy guy and defensive stopper, a crucial responsibility for a team that just faced Kevin Durant and likely will be seeing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the Finals. If only he had come to peace with this role in the Valley.
Marion may have been undervalued during his time in Phoenix, as his Wins Produced numbers suggest, but at the same time it’s tough to be too undervalued when you’re consistently leading the team in minutes and near the top in shot attempts while filling out the entire stat sheet.
Perhaps it’s just the fact that Matrix didn’t play as glamorous of a role as Nash and Amare did. Instead of running the offense or scoring in isolation, he was doing all the little things, defending every position a la Grant Hill (often making up for Nash’s porous ‘D’), running the floor, stealing, blocking and scoring without plays being called for him.
Steve Nash will always define the Seven Seconds or Less Era, but Shawn Marion provided the glue that held those teams together and made that run so special.
Not quite six degrees of separation for Steve Nash
This Mavericks team represents every stage of Steve Nash’s career.
There’s Jason Kidd, the “veteran” point guard with Phoenix back when Nash was a rookie somehow still chugging along and playing solid basketball at the ripe old age of 38.
Then there’s Nash’s old running mate and best friend Dirk Nowitzki, the only remaining Maverick from Nash’s time in Dallas. One can only speculate whether that duo would have won a championship together by now, but their success apart with three combined MVPs speaks for itself.
Finally there’s Marion, Nash’s connection to the SSOL years in Phoenix and a player who proved to be a perfect complement to Nash on both ends of the court.
As for Nash’s future, Dallas has always been mentioned as one of the teams that would potentially be most interested in pursuing a deal for Two Time if the Suns dangle him on the open market.
His career really would come full circle if we were to wind up back in a point guard battle with Kidd as vets, playing as a complementary star to Dirk with Marion filling in the cracks.
If Nash is dealt, I bet it will be to a team that fell just short in the postseason and feels Two Time could be the missing piece.
At this point such a deal would seem unlikely since Kidd and J.J. Barea have played so well and another short guard, Jason Terry, logs lots of minutes. That’s not to mention the talent of Roddy Beaubois, a player who would likely be in such a deal.
However, if Dallas falls short against Miami/Chicago and Cuban feels Nash could be the final piece, perhaps the Mavs would vault back to the top of that list.
All that will take care of itself later in the summer, as right now the Suns maintain the viewpoint that Nash is their franchise player and they will continue to build around him so long as he can dribble a basketball.
For the Mavs, meanwhile, legacies are at stake as Dirk, Marion and Kidd play for their first title.