Quick Thoughts

1.    Mad Marion: As we wait for training camp to begin, the latest story is that Shawn Marion has demanded a trade.  The origin of the trade seems to be twofold, recognition and money:

Marion was put off by being shopped. The Suns had dangled both Marion and Amare Stoudemire in possible trades this summer.  This in and of itself shouldn’t be too big a deal in the big business NBA but Marion seems to have a sensitive constitution.  This side to Marion was extensively, if gently, detailed by Jack McCallum in his great “:07 Seconds or Less” which detailed the 2005-06 Suns season (McCallum has also thoughtfully chimed in on the recent controversy).  Indeed, the tension was palpable even back in 2005:

“During the season, Marion was angry that his likeness didn’t appear among the huge bobblehead dolls in the Suns’ team store in the arena–the featured ones, of course, were of Nash and Stoudemire.  No Marion.  He noticed.  It sounds trivial to be complaining about that kind of stuff, particularly when you’re compensated as a maximum player, but Marion had a point.  There is Stoudemire, not even active, clowning around on the bench, and there is Marion trying to defend Lamar Odom, and yet Stoudermire gets all the love from the drum line.”

But Marion is not totally a glory hound with a strong agenda.  His feelings seem to genuinely stem from his true personality.  McCallum lays it out thusly:

“There is also a charming naiveté about Marion.  He chows down on Hamburger Helper and doesn’t care who knows about it.  He’s an avid cartoon watcher.  He’s a little, well, thrifty….One day last year, one of the trainers was thumbing through a luxury car magazine and musing about making a six-figure auto purchase.  ‘Why don’t you just buy it?’ asked Marion.  ‘Shawn, how much money you think I make?’  ‘I don’t know,’ said Marion.  ‘Two, three hundred thousand?'”

Marion wants a big contract extension.  He has a player option for 2008-09 at $17.2 million and wants a three-year extension for $60 million, the same extension that Paul Pierce snagged from the Celts a few years back.  It seems pretty clear that the Suns don’t want to go over the luxury tax based upon their maneuverings the last two seasons (dumping three draft picks and Kurt Thomas to knock off salary).  Marion is still at the top of his game but it would take a real leap of faith to commit to ages 30-33 at max money, two years before the team has to.

Usually, teams will call a player’s bluff and making him gut through it.  The Nets made Vince Carter play through his contract year and it worked out fine but the Raptors felt that they had to trade VC when he was unhappy.  Bulls ignored Scottie Pippen’s trade demands years ago but he was such a disruption that the Rockets quickly acceded to his trade demand.  Does Marion fall into “grin and deal with it” crowd?  Not according to McCallum:

“Feeling dissed is a common malady in the NBA; the issue is, how does a player react to it?  Marion, when feeling undervalued, sometimes gets inspired and sometimes goes into a funk….”

Well, that doesn’t really settle matters.  My sense is that Marion does not go into the funk, provided the team tries to “good cop” his trade demands while, at the same time, denying them.  Ultimately, Marion’s huge 2007-08 option year is too big to make any threats.  Trading Marion doesn’t make too much sense either because the Suns are looking to contend while Steve Nash is still in his prime (this should last the next two years or so).  There are three viable trade options for Marion right now: Andrei Kirilenko, Lamar Odom, and Jermaine O’Neal.  None of these matches are perfect…AK has a long-term deal that is cheaper but (two more years than Marion) and could probably fill that role pretty well, if not quite as well as Marion.  Odom is probably the weakest of the three players and is more of a power forward and has had knee issues.  But the Suns would have to take another player to match salaries for Marion.  O’Neal is probably the best option because he gives the Suns a defensive presence on big men but he makes a ton of cash (even more than Marion) of the next three seasons and he has not been healthy for a couple of years now.

In the end, I see Marion staying put short-term but clearly this is an issue the Suns will have to deal with, particularly if the Suns don’t play quite as well as expected.

2.    Bye Corliss: In other news, Corliss Williamson retired yesterday to become a college basketball assistant coach.  Williamson was only 34 and probably could’ve squeezed a few more years out of his career but stated that he wanted to get to the next stage of his life.  People tend forget this but Corliss was a huge college star, leading the Arkansas Razorbacks to a title in 1993-94 and to the another title game in 1994-95 (where they lost to UCLA).  Williamson was the dominant low post player for the team, despite the fact that he was not quite 6’7.  His college numbers weren’t huge (19 ppg and 7 rpg in college) and they wondered whether he could adjust to the pro game being so short.

In the end, Williamson was a mid-first round pick in the 1995 Draft for the Kings.  Sacramento scout Jerry Reynolds told Sports Illustrated back in 1995 that “[w]e asked ourselves: At the end of the day, how many players in college basketball have been more dominant than Corliss? And the answer was zero.  He’s been the best player on the best team for the last three years.”  As a pro, Williamson ranged from decent scorer (18 ppg  in 1997-98) to solid bench player.  After five years, the Kings traded him to Toronto in 2000 for Doug Christie.  Corliss spent half of 2000-01 in Toronto before being dealt to Detroit, where he was a very good bench player, winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2001-02.  He bounced back to Sacramento the last few years before his retirement yesterday.  Williamson is also a demonstration of the rising NBA salaries.  In fact, he made a very healthy $43 million in salary over his 12-year career.  In short, Williamson had a pretty respectable career in every respect.

As for his college days, for some reason, Williamson was the only Razorback to really make an impression as a pro.  Co-star Scotty Thurman and corpulent starting center Dwight Stewart never played a single pro game.  Corey Beck and Clint McDaniel had token NBA careers (88 career games for Beck and only 12 for McDaniel).  Here’s an update on where Corliss’ teammates are now:

-Scotty Thurman played all over Europe and Asia before retiring after the 2005-06 season.

-Corey Beck also went to Europe after he was cut from the NBA but stopped playing in the early 2000s.  Just last Wednesday, he was shot in an attempted carjacking in Memphis.  He is currently recovering in good condition.

-Dwight Stewart is still playing all over the globe.  Last year, he was with the Arkansas Rivercatz of the ABA.

-Clint McDaniel went the Europe route too, last playing in Hungary in 2003-04.

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