Mitch Kupchak said the strangest thing.
It was Thursday afternoon next to the court of the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, Calif., in the work room/holding tank for the media, a chance to debrief the general manager once the trade deadline passed relatively quietly with Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill still on the roster despite being linked to every team in every league on most every continent, including a few in Antarctica.
Kupchak was asked about the deal that did happen, Steve Blake to the Warriors for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks the night before.
“Steve Blake has been here almost four years and as a person and player, we loved him, but our shortage of point guards about a month or so ago led us to Kendall Marshall,” Kupchak began. With Kendall and Jordan (Farmar), and of course Steve Nash is back there and Steve Blake, it really got to the point where we needed to free up some time in the backcourt to look at Jordan and give Kendall the time that he’s earned, and let’s review and evaluate where we are with those two players.”
Kupchak went on to say it would be a chance to look at a couple younger players, Bazemore and Brooks, as the Lakers prepare for a summer of roster upheaval and emphasized Blake to Golden State was not a cost-cutting move. But, again: “…we needed to free up some time in the backcourt to look at Jordan and give Kendall the time that he’s earned.”
The same guy who was unwanted at the start of 2013-14 by the new GM in Phoenix one season after arriving as the No. 13 pick in the draft, who was forced on the Wizards as salary-cap balast to make get Marcin Gortat to Washington and then quickly cut by the Wiz, who was in the D-League and free to be claimed by anyone, and who got a call from the Lakers only after the previous five tries at a starting point guard ended in injury. That Kendall Marshall.
Not that it isn’t deserved – 28 games, 17 starts, 45.6 percent from the field, 47.6 percent on threes, 10.7 points, 9.8 assists, 2.77 turnovers. The Lakers absolutely should take a longer look. What a new layer, though, to a serpentine story that has been well-chronicled.
Only now it has gotten to where a team is creating avenues to rely on him more, not even a season after Marshall was stamped across the forehead as unwanted. Shooting was always one of the concerns, and he will challenge for the league lead if he reaches the qualifying minimum by the end. The lack of athleticism has always been a red flag, and look who has the sixth-best assist-to-turnover ratio.
In reality, Marshall could have had a clearer path to more playing anyway. “Steve, the season is going nowhere fast and we know what you can do. We’re going to play Kendall more.” Path cleared. (It’s the same finesse job in a lot of places. The Kings say trading Marcus Thornton to the Nets opens more minutes for Ben McLemore. Or they could have just played McLemore more with Thornton on the roster and probably not hurt their championship hopes too much.)
This time, it is another tangible level of the Marshall recovery, no matter the semantics, in continuing to prove most every team wrong for letting him go unclaimed in the D-League. The next step is getting serious guaranteed money somewhere next season, not a partial to serve as a training-camp sparring partner, the best he likely would have hoped for until this star turn with the Lakers as a reminder of why he was a lottery pick as the best passing point guard in the 2012 draft that suddenly doesn’t feel so forever ago.