- Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com
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DALLAS -- Shawn Marion's scoring average is his lowest since his rookie season. His rebounding average represents a career low.
That doesn't mean that Marion has been a disappointment since he came to the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade deal this summer.
"The thing that I've loved about him since he's got here is he's just been all about trying to fit in and make it work," coach Rick Carlisle said.
Fit was the foremost reason the Mavericks didn't get involved in the bidding for one of the high-scoring wing players on the trade market this summer, although finances were also a factor. The deals that sent Richard Jefferson to the San Antonio Spurs -- Friday's Mavs opponent -- and Vince Carter to the Orlando Magic dominated the offseason headlines.
The Mavs were thrilled to acquire Marion, whom they considered a better fit for them at half the price. They haven't changed their mind as the season nears the halfway point. (Oh, it's also worth noting that Jefferson's scoring average is the lowest since his rookie season and Carter's is a career low.)
"The priority was not trying to win the summer," owner Mark Cuban said, referring to perception of offseason moves. "The priority was trying to become a better team."
That meant making major strides defensively, which is why Marion made sense for the Mavericks. He's also an offensive upgrade over Antoine Wright, who is the man Marion replaced in the starting lineup and the only rotation player the Mavs gave up in the deal to get him.
The Mavericks ranked 17th in defensive efficiency (points per possession) last season. They've skyrocketed to seventh this season.
The Mavericks' brass believes those numbers are much better reflections of Marion than his scoring (11.6 points per game) and rebounding (6.4) numbers. Marion's length and athleticism allow him to defend virtually any wing or power forward and many point guards and centers.
"Shawn Marion should be first-team All-Defense, no questions asked," Cuban said. "He's been amazing."
Said Marion: "That's what I do. I'm a basketball player doing what I've got to do to help the team win. The more people see you doing it, the more it rubs off. Then everybody accepts the challenge."
Marion readily accepted a lesser role when he came to Dallas because he wanted to play for a contender.
He understood that he'd usually be the third or fourth offensive option on the floor and would rarely have plays run for him. He describes his role as "bringing a little bit of everything," which entails a lot of dirty work. Marion, who has played through nagging calf and ankle injuries that he says aren't an issue anymore, has given the Mavs an element of grit and toughness they needed.
"He took this challenge on to do whatever the team needs him to do," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Early on in his career, I think he wouldn't be happy with a role like that. Now, we're all over 30, and we're all trying to win."
Added Carlisle: "I love the spirit with which he's approached this. He's been a complete pro."
With Marion, no matter his mediocre stats, the Mavs are a much more complete team.
The Mavs' defensive improvement shows that Marion signing was about sense.