DALLAS — Just two summers ago four-time NBA All-Star forward Shawn Marion was on cloud nine.
Capturing the championship that had eluded him during a lengthy stint in Phoenix and short stops in Miami and Toronto, Marion had finally reached the mountaintop during his second season with the Dallas Mavericks. Two years later, however, Marion found himself and a set of new Mavericks teammates on the outside looking into the playoffs after suffering through an up-and-down season that ended with a 41-41 record.
And despite emerging as one of the veteran leaders on the Mavs during his 14th season, Marion says what was missing this year can be summed up in one word: effort.
“You know, when you become a professional athlete, you set standards for yourself and your team,” Marion said after the Mavs came up short of making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
“You go out here and you try to leave it all,” he continued. “I don’t know no other way to play than to leave it on the floor. You can’t control the ball going in the hoop, but you can control your effort. You know, I think when you’re not able to go out there and give it your all and give it 110 percent then something is wrong. Maybe you need to sit down. … Being a professional athlete and dealing with the ups and downs we’ve had this season, you’ve got to look at yourself and say, ‘Are you giving it your all? Are you doing what’s within your control to go out there and just compete and leave it out on the floor?’ Like I said, you can control certain things, but certain things you can’t control. Effort is the only thing you really can control. You can’t control the ball going in. You’re going to get a turnover here and there or whatever, vice versa, but you can control your effort.”
Effort certainly wasn’t an issue for Marion this season.
Elevating his scoring average from a year ago while dealing with several nagging injuries, Marion went from posting 10.6 points an outing in the ’11-12 campaign to 12.1 points a game this season. He also led the Mavs in rebounding for a second straight season, snatching down 7.8 boards an outing while starting all 67 of his appearances.
The versatile forward and defensive specialist, who turned 35 years old on Tuesday, has seemingly done it all in his career, including moving into 22nd place on the league’s all-time steals list this season to bring his total to 1,642. Still, even after taking over a leadership role and stepping up during the 27-game absence of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki to start the season following his preseason arthroscopic knee surgery, Marion heads into the offseason unfulfilled after missing the playoffs for only the fifth time in his career.
“All the close games we had this year, if we win those games, we’re probably in fourth or fifth place in the Western Conference this year,” Marion said while putting the season into perspective. “It’s that simple of a turn here or that much of a little more effort on this end or being smarter of a decision-maker and making a turn. That sums up the season. We made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have made this year as a team and it killed us.
“Up and down and not consistent,” he added. “You know, it’s been frustrating. … I know you can’t play 48 minutes perfect basketball, nobody can, but if you can get closer to that 44 or 45, you really give yourself a chance to win every night. You know, and for the most part we’ve had some really bad losses this season and we’ve been right there clawing. Take all the games we’ve lost by one point or two points, whatever, and we could have won those games. If we win those games, we’re in a playoff spot right now.”