Shawn Marion is in the Dallas Mavericks locker room watching television and despite the fact that he's just led his team to a blowout victory over Denver, the only accessory he's wearing to go along with his bathrobe is a scowl.
In one ear, Marion hears the sports news program trumpeting yet another of the nightly accomplishments of New York Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin. In the other ear, "The Matrix'' has ... me. He is listening to a question from me as I am pondering the revelation that Marion, 33, has never once been selected All-NBA Defense first- or second-team.
"Yeah, yeah, I know that,'' Marion says while glancing back at the TV. "They don't really know what they're talking about, do they?''
DONUT 2: They who? ...
"They'' are experiencing all sorts of overexcited problems when it comes to Jeremy Lin ...
I've determined that Marion is being intentionally and coyly vague here. Is he disturbed by the television poofs because they are suddenly suffering from Linsanity and effusive with praise of the accomplishments of someone who has played at a high level for a week … and doing so rather than tipping their well-coiffed heads in the direction of this year's best player on the defending champion's roster? Is his scowl related to Lin, who represents yet another unique assignment that Marion will draw when Dallas meets the Knicks in New York in a Sunday lunchtime game on national television? Or is his scowl simply another expression of what he calls "the dog in me''?
"I'm just doing what I do every game," Marion says. "Y'all are just not paying attention to me."
Well, Trix, we're doing our best to bring you that attention. Good thing DB.com's Chuck Perry was there to record your sly diss of Lin when the subject came up Friday night ...
"For who? Lin?'' That won't make it onto any t-shirts or posters. But it's a statement alright.
DONUT 3: There is indeed a lack of attention, career-wise, for Marion ...
Yes, a lack of attention given that while he's made four All-Star teams in his career, he's never been recognized as one of the four best defensive forwards in the league in a given season.
"I don't know exactly how they vote on that stuff,'' Mavs defensive coordinator Monte Mathis tells me. "But it's certainly an oversight.''
Adds Dirk Nowitzki: "He's been our most consistent and best player this season."
The 102-84 win over the Nuggets on Wednesday might serve as a resume-builder for Marion. He did everything in terms of conventional stats – in just 26 minutes he scored 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting, with 10 rebounds, six assists and an incredible plus/minus of +29. But it was much more than that. Denver is the No. 1 offensive team in the league, and Marion spearheaded a complete shutdown of the Nuggets attack. Denver scored just 39 points in the first half and was outscored 32-15 in the third quarter as Dallas flirted with 30-point leads throughout.
And it happened again Friday in Philly, the Mavs winning 82-75 while limiting the Sixers to eight third-quarter points and with Trix limiting Jrue Holliday to 0-of-9 shooting, three points and just three assists.
"Dallas has turned into an incredibly good defensive team,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said.
There are a number of reasons for that, including the fine center play of the trio that's replaced Tyson Chandler, a Mavs champion last year and a $15-million-a-year Knick this season.
But Marion is the key person.
And using the 6-7 Swiss Army Knife to check point guards like Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holliday and, today, Jeremy Lin, is the key strategy.
DONUT 4: Let's get to today's nooner and some of that strategy...
The starting lineups, and NBA scouting info from Kyle Leath ...
F- Iman Shumpert
F- Shawn Marion
F- Amare Stoudemire
F- Dirk Nowitzki
C- Tyson Chandler
C- Brendan Haywood
G- Landry Fields
G- Vince Carter
G- Jeremy Lin
G- Jason Kidd
DONUT 5: A look at the Knicks Offense ...
• With Lin, they are clearly having him trying to mimic Nash. They play a lot of 5-out look with mid- and side-ball screens. Look for weakside wing to come to high post for jumper.
• Always looking to get out and run. Want to get ball out in transition.
• Will run Drag and Double Drag sets (Single and Double Mid Pick/Rolls).
• They rely on transition and jump shots. Very little continuity sets. And of course now, they rely on Lin:
DONUT 6: A look at the Knicks Defense ...
• They play Man-to-man. Will jump and double ball.
• Do not show hard on ball screens.
• Like to pressure full court at times off dead balls and made baskets. Will trap halfcourt as well. They can afford to take risks there with Tyson Chandler as their rim protector. TY remains expert at help defense:
• Rely on turnovers to ignite offense.
DONUT 7: Stat Check ...
• Dallas has won 17 of 19 against Knicks and the last five in NY.
• Knicks are 2nd in Steals at 9.3/gm
• Knicks are 29th in 3pt % at 29.9%
• Dallas boasts the No. 1 FG-percentage defensive team in the NBA.
DONUT 8: In addition to watching the Mavs-at-Knicks at noon ...
Follow the game on Twitter with the Mavs Twitterverse ... The 75-Member Staff featuring Chuck Perry live from Madison Square Garden!
DONUT 9: So it's Trix on Lin, right? ...
In recent memory, Marion was the guy who stopped LeBron James last spring to help Dallas to its NBA Finals success over Miami. He's also the guy who causes Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant to have his poorest NBA games against one particular team – Dallas. He does the same against the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who in his last 10 games against the Mavs have essentially been reduced to a 30-percent jumpshooter.
And now … Shawn Marion blankets point guards.
"His versatility on defense is what really sets him apart,'' says center Brendan Haywood. "Not too many guys guard a team's point guard and then go out there the next night and guard a guy like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant. He does a great job against anybody. Not too many guys are willing to go to guard to point guards and then power forwards.
He swallowed up Rubio. He forced legendary Mavs-killer Paul into a season-high five turnovers. Against the Nuggets, he rendered Lawson – who's recently been an automatic 20-point guy – invisible. Lawson set a new season low with only three points, a season-low 12.5 field-goal percentage (12.5), and tied a season low with just two assists. Holliday might as well have stayed in street clothes.
The Knicks feature two stars who've been guarded by Marion over their careers in Carmelo Anthony (now reportedly not planning to return to play today) and Amare Stoudemire. But conventional wisdom says the Mavs might again do the unconventional and assign Marion to the point guard. That would be Jeremy Lin, who is averaging 24 points a game during the now-heralded start to his NBA career. (Lin and the Knicks' winning streak ended at seven Friday night with an 89-85 loss to New Orleans. Lin had 26 points but also recorded nine turnovers.)
"I'm a competitor," Marion says. "I'm built a different way. I have this inner dog in me that I feel like a lot of people don't have. I'm just going to bring it like that. That's how I come."
DONUT 10: If you like this level of insight into the World Champion Dallas Mavericks ...
DONUT 11: Scout Kyle Leath on How to Beat the Knicks:
• PLAY MAV BALL – Carlisle says defense has become the Mavs' "identity'' and it is true. Dallas plays "free'' on offense but the defense is very structured. That is an edge over the Knicks.
• HAMMER – Keep getting the ball in the paint. D'Antoni teams are not known for tenacious defense and this edition of the Knicks is no different.
• BENCH PRESS – Even with the people who are out, Dallas still has a huge advantage here. Jason Terry and Lamar Odom represent a higher quality wave of talent than NY can counter with. ... even though NY may counter with the debuts of Baron Davis and J.R. Smith, who might take time to get integrated into the system. In addition to Melo being out, NY may scratch Bill Walker as a starter in favor of Shumpert.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
Mavs owner Mark Cuban has taken to campaigning for Marion to get a Defensive Player of the Year award, and every passing day seems to take another step towards further justification of just that. Such a selection would be quite a jump for a guy who's never even been named one of the league's top 10 defenders in a given season.
"It feels good and I'm doing what I can to help my team win games," Marion says.
Do that very thing one more time … in New York against Jeremy Lin … and maybe the TV poofs will notice.