HANG TIME WEST – The last three or four months, Kendall Marshall mentioned in passing, have been filled with ups and downs.
There have been ups?
“The ups have been I’ve been having good workouts,” he said.
Even Marshall had to laugh at that.
A star at North Carolina, the Bob Cousy Award winner in 2012 as the top college point guard, the No. 13 pick in the draft that year, the potential replacement for Steve Nash in Phoenix, and in 2013 latching on to practices as an emotional wave.
Oh, and “I thought I played pretty well in the D-League. You have to find the positives throughout things and realize that it is still a blessing to be playing basketball for a living.”
That much is definitely true. Kendall Marshall is still playing basketball for a living. And he is very good at emphasizing the positives. It’s everything else that gets hazy.
He never came close to succeeding Nash as Suns point guard. He never even came close to passing Goran Dragic on the depth chart. Marshall averaged 14.6 minutes, three points and three assists in 48 games as a rookie while shooting 37.1 percent in the continuation of a problem that concerned a lot of front offices weighing his draft stock. By summer, after Lance Blanks had been fired as general manager and replaced by Ryan McDonough, it had become obvious the new administration saw no future for Marshall in Phoenix.
He was sent to Washington as one of several pieces of cap filler that allowed the Wizards to acquire Marcin Gortat, then quickly waived. No one picked up Marshall. He waited and signed with the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League. No one grabbed him there for a while either.
Eighteen months after being considered a top prospect, a true distributor with the best passing skills in the draft class, two years of experience in a major program, natural instincts, the goal had become just to get on an NBA roster. It took the Lakers being down to Xavier Henry as their fifth point guard – with Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar injured and shooting guard Kobe Bryant, the emergency fill-in, also going down – for Marshall to finally get back to the majors.
His third game as a Laker, after one of staying on the bench against the Timberwolves and another of six minutes at Golden State, is tonight at Phoenix, but Marshall is insistent there is no grudge match. It’s the right approach, of course. He needs to make a point to everyone, not just the Suns, at a time in his life when it has been impossible to not look around and wonder who opened the trap door.
“No question,” Marshall admitted. “It was quick the way everything happened. You kind of look at yourself in the mirror and you know there’s things that you have to improve on. I did that and I’m going to continue to get better and find a way to help this team.”
The same questions remain as when he came out of college, or, actually, the same doubts around the league have increased after 2012-13 as Dragic’s backup in Phoenix. Marshall isn’t athletic enough, particularly a problem on defense but also for any team that uses an up-tempo offense. He can’t shoot well enough.
The goal, he said, is to prove his talents to the Lakers, not to all the other clubs that have taken a pass. That is part of thinking positive, that Marshall only tries to concern himself with the opportunity that is there. That is part of finding the ups.