NBA: Monday Review: Shawn Marion's Fall

November 3rd, 2008

By: Preetom Bhattacharya 

Marion's Fall from Grace

It wasn't too long ago that Miami Heat forward Shawn Marion had a legitimate argument about being an underrated player in the NBA. After several successful campaigns with the Suns hat included double-double averages and right around .500 shooting from the field, Marion truly was one of the most productive and efficient players around. His Suns tenure simply ended because he constantly wanted recognition and credit for what he was doing, as if his eight-figure salary weren't enough of either.

But nowadays, Marion is nowhere near the same player. Defensively, he has clearly lost a step and his intensity, the energy that made him a special player in Phoenix, is lacking. His shooting percentage projects to this being the worst shooting season of his career. His 9-point, 8-rebound performance on Saturday was uninspired and Marion was completely dominated by Charlotte Bobcats

' forward Gerald Wallace, who led Charlotte to a victory with 34 points and 9 rebounds.

It may be lack of effort or simply a lack of fitting in beside rookie Michael Beasley, but whatever the case is, Marion is lowering his value. Slated to become a free agent in July, Marion is looking straight into the eyes of a significant pay cut from the $17.8-million he's making this year.

Of course, things could turn around and he could once again start playing at the level most around the NBA are accustomed to seeing from him, but right now he looks a year older and a step slower. The question for the HEAT will be how long they continue to wait this thing out – should they move Marion sooner rather than later, hoping a team is willing to rent him as a nice role player and give up some nice young pieces? Or should the team simply allow his contract to expire and utilize the cap space?

Then there's this added wrinkle: Marion is represented by Dan Fegan, who is notorious for injecting himself into personnel decisions by looking for the best situation for his client. Fegan could very well start putting feelers out there to see where Marion could be traded to with the hopes that his client thrives in a new situation, leading to a nice contract to finish Marion's career.

The intrigue from South Beach will continue to fuel rumors of Marion's eventual departure all season long, as some team out there might be willing to bite on Marion's track record. But that interest certainly will wane unless Marion starts to produce

Steph Almost Done in New York?

Tick-tock goes the clock on Stephon Marbury's career as a New York Knick. Marbury is set to meet face-to-face with Donnie Walsh early this week (today or tomorrow) and Walsh seems ready to end the madness before the Knicks play again on Wednesday.

Marbury, who represents himself, has said that he would be unwilling to take a cut from the $20.8-million he is owed this season and has said repeatedly that he wants to continue to play in New York. Walsh, on the other hand, does not have an extended history of buying players out, either. At this point, though, he doesn't have that many options.

Although it seems like Marbury has been made to look like the bad guy in all this, the fact of the matter is the Knicks would simply be adding by subtracting if he were removed from the equation. Marbury's circus act would bring any organization down and although he isn't exactly getting his fair shake from the media, both parties simply need a clean slate and need to move on.

As it stands right now, the HEAT and Denver Nuggets would be the most likely destinations for Marbury to land if he's bought out. Marbury worked out in Denver over the summer with Nuggets' assistant Tim Grgurich and was formerly a teammate of both Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion on the 2004 Team USA Olympic squad.

Pietrus Struggling in Orlando

It isn't a surprise to hear that Mickael Pietrus is struggling to "grasp the scheme" in Orlando. Pietrus left the Golden State Warriors' free-wheeling system and it seems only natural that he'd have a hard time adjusting to the mental challenges of Stan Van Gundy's structured play.

But the mental part of the game wasn't always easy for Pietrus with the Warriors, as he was constantly told to do something different. In five years with the Warriors, Pietrus played for three different coaches and current Warriors' head coach Don Nelson would give Pietrus mixed messages in having him play almost every position on the floor, assuming different responsibilities based on where he was needed.

Granted, that's sort of the beauty of Pietrus' versatility and athleticism – why have all this ability if it won't be used in a variety of ways? But asking Pietrus to play power forward was unreasonable and a difficult task.

For a kid entering the league at the ripe age of 21, Pietrus hasn't heard a consistent voice yet, something he's receiving for the first time with Van Gundy. Give him time, tolerate the occasional boneheaded play, and reap the benefits later on this season when something finally will click for him.

Contract An Early Distraction for Kleiza

Denver Nuggets' forward Linas Kleiza admitted this weekend that the stalled contract-extension talks with the team have been a distraction for him, leading to a less-than-stellar start to the season. Kleiza has shot an atrocious .227 from the field in the Nuggets' three games and is averaging just 5.0 points per game; last season, he averaged 11.1 points on .472 shooting.

Kleiza was close to signing a four-year, $25-million extension on Friday before Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke reportedly decided to maintain the team's financial flexibility by pulling the deal.

The Nuggets have always liked what Kleiza brings to the table, going so far as to not trade him for Ron Artest, so he should end up being a part of the team's long-term plan. But he's got to work himself out of this current funk; he's going to be a key reserve for the Nuggets if they plan to make a playoff run this year.