Shawn Marion is talkin' baseball (Getty Images)
Shawn Marion is a smart and unique player. Everything about the Dallas Mavericks forward screams unorthodoxy, even if the league is quite familiar with the presence of the four-time All-Star, one that was drafted into the NBA out of UNLV in 1999. Nearly 15 years removed from draft night, Marion truly still does not have a typical position. He capably defends all comers despite his age, he’s worked on both rebuilding clubs, middling teams, championship contenders, and champions, and Marion is regarded as about as savvy as they come amongst the NBA’s active players.
He may have swung and missed on this bad boy, though.
Recently asked what changes he’d like to see under newly-minted NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Marion decided to call back to that bastion of financial security and league-minded goodwill : Major League Baseball. Marion would love to see the NBA throw out the salary cap under Silver, letting teams choose to pay what they want regardless of penalty, or the gulf between large and small markets.
“I could see no cap and everybody doing what you want to do,” he said. “Baseball does it. If you want to go out and spend $200 million on your team (payroll), go ahead and do it.
“It can’t guarantee that you’re going to win, but why not? If you’ve got the money to do it, why not?
“There shouldn’t be a cutoff on what people want to spend for their teams, but there should be a minimum that have to spend, so you definitely put a good product on the floor.”
Dearest Shawn, “baseball does it” should never be a reason for just about anything sports-related. I love the game, but MLB has undergone decades’ worth of labor strife, strikes, salary disparities, drug woes, collusion, and out and out free market chaos. Bad ownership and front office machinations are part of the reason why, but the (decreasing, but still significant) gulf between the haves and have-nots in baseball is one of the reasons why you haven’t seen some certain teams in their ever-expanding playoff bracket for years.
It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Marion currently plays for Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks. Cuban is known as the type that will spend whatever it takes to create a winner, but it should be pointed out that the first three years of Cuban’s run as Mavericks owner saw him spend lavishly on free agents and acquire massive contract after massive contract in a trade, with no championship guarantee.
It wasn’t until Cuban started watching his contracts and his personnel hires – ironically starting with declining to match the salary of eventual two-time MVP Steve Nash in the summer of 2004 – that the Mavericks moved from playoff fodder to championship contender. And as we’ve seen recently in Los Angeles, New York, and Brooklyn, stacking the roster with huge contracts doesn’t mean a thing if the players’ games aren’t in order.
Marion’s boss, Mark Cuban, understands this. This is why he declined to match a deal for an aging Tyson Chandler, even knowing that Chandler’s 2011-12 season might be his peak as a player. It’s why he’s kept things flexible in the years since Marion’s 2011 title with the Mavs. The two seasons that followed were disappointing for various reasons, and this year’s Dallas club is hardly a championship contender, but the options are there. And a middling team with options in hand is in far better shape than a middling playoff club that is capped and taxed out.
Shawn went on to go on record in hopes that Silver would raise the age requirement even further, which is understandable to a degree as Marion will turn 36 this May and would presumably have to fight a youngster for a prime playoff spot next year. That age increase is not likely to happen, as most will now sign off on the idea that spending seven or more months practicing with and playing against NBA players is a superior way to develop than a year or two spent in the NCAA, against inferior talent, and limited practices and games.
Even the legal (it’s a private league) and collectively bargained age limit the NBA has now is about as anti-American as it gets, denying employment for those who would be eligible in order for the NBA to take in some free “amateur” development, while making billions for the NCAA and CBS.
Marion wants “two to three years, minimum” out of high school for players to hit the NBA. Odd, considering Shawn declared for the NBA draft after two years at a junior college, and one year at UNLV. Hitting the league with an unorthodox style on both ends that three years out of high school didn’t seem to straighten out. Or, to use Marion’s words, teach him the “A’s and B’s of basketball.”
Shawn Marion didn’t need the “A’s and B’s of basketball” to become a star, and his 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, run by the free-spending Cuban, didn’t need the league’s highest payroll to win a title.
Ah well. We all get a little forgetful in our mid-30s.
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