- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kendall Marshall has turned the one supposed weakness in his game into a strength that is on par with any other player in the league.
Marshall leads the NBA in 3-point percentage, hitting at a 49.4 percent clip, edging ahead of New Orleans' Anthony Morrow into first place Sunday by making all three of his attempts from downtown against the Chicago Bulls.
Marshall has hit 44-for-89 3s in 23 games with the Los Angeles Lakers since being called up from the D-League earlier this season. He has been particularly hot as of late, shooting 9-for-12 in his past four games since assuming a reserve role after Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar returned to the lineup.
"It's unbelievable, isn't it?" Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after practice, marveling at Marshall's accuracy. "Kendall is shooting the ball extremely well. He's playing well."
Marshall said that having a reputation as a sharpshooter actually is a return to his roots. Before he was known as a pass-first point guard, he was an outside gunner in high school.
"I went from 6-3, 150 [pounds] to 6-4, 180, so I just became a really big point guard at that point to where I was basically bullying guys and not shooting as many jump shots," Marshall said.
As good as his shot has been, he knows it has its limitations -- particularly his slow release. That's why you'll sometimes see Marshall let it fly when he's a foot or two behind the 3-point line.
"I need time to get it off," Marshall said. "So, if a defender has to close out farther, it's to my advantage. Again, with the way I shoot, I don't have a lot of motion so I feel like I'm strong enough to shoot from there."
Marshall's shot is far from conventional, but it works.
"Every coach I've had has told me that I have a good form, it's just a matter of shooting with confidence," said Marshall, who added that he has worked to add "more air" under the ball when he shoots.
His shooting has even gotten Nash's stamp of approval, no small feat considering Nash is one of a handful of guys in the conversation for best shooter in NBA history.
"I think he's proven it thus far," Nash said. "He's shot the ball well, especially for him, when he gets his feet set; he's got great range and knocks down the 3. I think that's been huge for him to kind of prove that he can shoot the outside shot, especially the 3s. It's part of his evolving game that I think we've all seen has been great and is really coming along."
Marshall, who averaged 11.9 points and 11.5 assists in 15 starts while Nash, Blake and Farmar were all injured, kept himself a part of the rotation with his shooting when they returned. Instead of just playing fourth-string point guard, he can also play shooting guard. D'Antoni even experimented with a three-guard lineup of Marshall, Nash and Blake against Chicago.
"The more we space the floor, the better it is, whether it's a big guy or small guy," D'Antoni said. "Can you get away with it defensively? We got away with it a little bit [against Chicago]. I don't know if that's always going to be the case. But, again, you're putting three good shooters, three good point guards on the floor. In certain areas, it's going to be great. Can you get by in other areas? It will be a game-to-game thing."
Nash thinks the benefits of the lineup outweigh the challenges.
"I think it gives us a different look," Nash said. "You have three playmakers, ball handlers and shooters, and it can be difficult under the right circumstances for a team to match up with."
Marshall would like to try the lineup again, too, saying the Lakers can use it to "funk teams out" here and there.
"It was interesting," Marshall said. "What I thought would be a problem wasn't a problem at all defensively. I thought we did a great job, us three. I thought we did a great job of cracking back and help rebounding. And offensively, when you got three guys that anybody can be in pick and roll and anybody can shoot the ball, it's hard to defend. So, I think we did a good job with it for the time we were out there."
While Marshall has proven he can pass and is proving he can shoot, now he has to make a name for himself on the other end of the court.
"His improvement now has to be on the defensive end, where he's a little bit more active and all that," D'Antoni said. "But, he's playing well."