Shawn Marion emerges as Mavs’ X-factor this season

DALLAS — It’s not often that a four-time NBA All-Star is overlooked on his own team’s roster.

But, after a near-complete roster shakeup by the Dallas Mavericks’ front office this summer, versatile forward Shawn Marion seems to be the forgotten piece to the puzzle as the team tries to make a return to the playoffs.

Wednesday night, Marion led the team with 18 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds in 25 minutes of work as the Mavs moved to 2-2 in exhibition play with a 92-85 road win over the Indiana Pacers. The monster night came just two days after receiving a scheduled rest from Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle during a 102-94 home loss to Orlando, which seems to have rejuvenated the 35-year-old veteran.

“I mean, my wind has been pretty good throughout preseason right now and in training camp, but I just wanted to be aggressive and my teammates were looking for me,” Marion said following his return. “The ball was moving a lot more and the ball was finding me.”

“Look, we didn’t run one play for him and he made great things happen all night,” Carlisle said of Marion’s performance. “He created opportunities by running and doing things the hard way, and defensively he was real solid and helped us rebound. You know, you sit a guy out like that for one game and you start to understand how meaningful he is to your team. It was good to have him back out there.”

With Marion resting, his absence would mostly be felt on the glass as the Magic outrebounded the Mavs, 54-32. Two nights later, with the team’s leading rebounder from the past two seasons back in action, the Mavs finished the game with a 48-46 edge on the boards.

Meanwhile, Marion appeared to have found a connection with new addition Monta Ellis as the combo guard operated as the team’s main playmaker Wednesday night, cutting through the lane with ease for scores around the basket while Ellis dished out nine assists. And it’s Marion’s ability to affect a game without having a play called in his direction that has his teammates expecting a big season from the 14-year veteran.

“He looked refreshed,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said with high praise for his teammate. “He was good and he was good around the basket. He kept balls alive, and he’s one of the best slashers in this league. He always finds a little seam where he can get in and get his little floater or runner off. He was fantastic. He played with energy, he was all over the place, and he made some stuff happen for us.”

“[Marion] is going to be that X-factor when teams come off and try to guard the pick-and-roll,” Ellis added. “He knows the game and he’s going to get to the right spots. The only thing we have to do is find him.”