It definitely takes a particular mindset to be a lockdown defender. It’s part resiliency; opponents are bound to make shots, but the defender has to maintain his effort and composure. It’s part insanity; why else stand on the tracks when the train’s coming through? And it’s part confidence; supreme confidence to think that in a sport that favors players who can put the ball in the basket, you can stand in the way of them doing just that.
I’m a little uncertain of how these facets are interrelated. It’s possible that the resiliency stems from confidence (always believing in the next stop) or from insanity (running through brick wall after brick wall), or that it all boils down to being a little bit loony. Who knows? We’ve had guys in the NBA from just about all over the spectrum, with these three traits being just about the only thing they have in common.
And while the former two traits are certainly important — the willingness to be scored on and the insanity to let it happen time and time again — the latter is paramount. Being a quality defender is mostly about believing that you’re one, and the execution comes as a result of that confidence.
Shawn Marion certainly isn’t lacking in that. It’s an air that floats around him on the court and in the locker room, and it’s really unmistakable. It’s by no means negative. Shawn is just sure of himself, his talent, and what he can accomplish. One particular exchange comes to mind, when I was talking to Marion following his impressive night Ding up Kevin Durant:
Mahoney: With a guy like Durant, what goes into the decision-making on who’s going to cover him, the primary assignment? Do you volunteer for that job? Does Rick [Carlisle] say you’re the best guy for the job? What goes into that?
Marion: [Shawn smiles.] What do you think?
Mahoney: I think you took him.
Marion: It’s me. You know it’s gonna be me. That’s no problem. And I have no problem doing that. That’s what’s up.
With a pair of perimeter defenders like Shawn Marion and Josh Howard, I figured there would at least be a discussion. And perhaps there was, internally, among the coaching staff. But in Shawn’s mind there was no discussion. There was no debate to be had because what would be the point? He’s the best perimeter defender on this team and containing guys like Durant is what he does. That’s what’s up.
He’s been doing it all season, and he did it in the most dramatic of ways on the Mavs’ one-point win over the Wizards. And afterwards, Shawn wasn’t shy in assessing his own defensive aptitude:
Sometimes, it takes a defining moment before you can start banging the drum for a cause. Shawn Marion had just that kind of moment Wednesday. Because of his blocked shot on Caron Butler that saved the Mavericks’ win over Washington, Marion now is officially a candidate for the all-defensive team.
“Come on,” Marion said. “How about defensive player of the year?”
OK, we stand corrected.