Shawn Marion jokingly hints that this season, his 15th, could be his last

Shawn Marion was drafted just five months after the 1999 NBA lockout ended, and he immediately parlayed his long arms and huge hops into a role as a hybrid two-way forward, a gig made possible by the emergence of Kevin Garnett just a few years before. The Dallas Mavericks veteran is about to enter his 15th season, long ago trading in those hops for smarts and those arms for … well, the dude still has wingspan for days.

Marion is a free agent after this season, one that the Mavericks will likely be saying “goodbye” to as his cap hold could get in the way of their desperate chase to pair a second star alongside Dirk Nowitzki (no, we don’t think Monta Ellis counts) with impending available cap space. Caught in conversation with a former boss on Tuesday, Marion may have revealed that his 15th NBA season may be his last.

Whether you buy it or not. From Eddie Sefko at the Dallas Morning News:

That’s what happened with Shawn Marion when he ran into former coach Frank Johnson after the Mavericks’ first preseason practice. Johnson was at Phoenix when Marion was an all-star with the Suns.

The two exchanged pleasantries, and Johnson asked Marion how many years this was for him in the NBA.

“Fifteen,” Marion said.

Overhearing that, it was mentioned there was no guarantee there would be a 16th year next season, given that Marion’s due to be a free agent after this season.

“There will be a 16th,” Johnson said. “He’ll probably play 20 seasons before he’s done.”

Marion just laughed.

“No way,” he said. “I want to be able to walk when I’m done.”

Understand that, again, these comments were overheard following the first practice of the season, typically a grueling affair that doesn’t take too kindly to legs that have played a combined 40,206 regular and postseason minutes since 1999. Marion’s work ethic, shape and attitude have never been in question; it’s just that at some point not even months of preparation for a 15th training camp can stop Father Time from catching up.

With that in place, and even if he was being serious about considering retirement in 2014, it’s hard to look at Shawn Marion (even at age 35) and see a greybeard in decline.

Technically, Marion enjoyed a bounce back season in 2012-13, but considering the lockout year of 2011-12 that preceded it, the efficiency drop off from that crammed-in campaign should probably be treated as a statistical novelty. Otherwise, Marion’s numbers seem relatively consistent – he still shoots a high percentage, rebounds well enough, rarely fouls and very rarely turns the ball over, and his passing is improving as the years move along. His 2012-13 Player Efficiency Rating of 18 topped the mark he produced five years ago at this time, and also the mark he produced while a member of the 2011 champion Mavericks.

That ring might be enough to tilt Marion toward retirement, though. In talking with Sefko, he mentioned an offseason trip to Italy as one reason he might decide to take a break from the NBA grind after 2013-14, reminding us that “we’re so young as a nation,” and that older, more established cultures are worth taking in if you have the means. Marion will end this season with over $133 million in career earnings, and that’s enough scratch to buy a chain of failing travel agencies, and employ the anachronistic businesses solely for his personal holidays.

Or, he could latch onto a veteran team for a smallish contract, hoping for one more ring, and try it all over again. There’s certainly plenty of precedence, dating back decades, for athletic forwards to completely fall off the table production-wise with no advance warning, and who knows if Marion can sustain his impressive numbers from last season?

All signs point to more of the same from Shawn, though. Another great year for a Mavs team looking to crawl back into the playoffs, working with a healthy Dirk and a new center in Samuel Dalembert that Marion calls “dominant” and “who can cause legitimate problems on both ends of the floor.”

Wait, Samuel Dalembert is … dominant? Maybe senility is setting in for Shawn, at the ripe old age of 35.

Whether this is his last year, or just the final page in one of his many NBA chapters, we can’t wait to tune into watch Shawn Marion ply his trade this fall. Just as it was in the last century.

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