The Dallas Mavericks’ defense is in trouble, and their inability to get stops is a big reason why they’ve faded since their 13-game winning streak. Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier have been a bit more up-and-down than Rick Carlisle would like, the rotations have been a step slow, and giving up open shots on the weak side has been a bit of a problem.
The one defensive constant all year has been Shawn Marion, who has shown time and time again that he’s still capable of forcing opposing wings (small forwards in particular) into bad shooting nights. Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kobe Bryant all produce at a lower level against the Mavs than they do on the regular, and most of that is because Marion has been an elite individual defender this year.
So naturally, because the basketball gods are cruel indeed and love to watch fans squirm, Marion’s strained oblique could become something of a problem. From Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:
There’s been little fretting over the oblique muscle strain that Mavericks small forward Shawn Marion
suffered to his left side during Saturday’s game. It’s possible it
could keep him out longer than Terry[‘s recovery from face surgery] and that would be troubling for an
already sputtering Mavericks team locked in a multi-team battle for
homecourt advantage and the playoffs on tap in two weeks.
In a tweet Monday night, Marion, the Mavs’ best defender all season, said he’s “still hurting.” And with good reason.
The obliques wrap around the side of the body and an abdominal
strain can make it difficult to simply sneeze. Oblique strains are more
common in baseball players, obviously due to the twisting motions of
both hitters and pitchers. It’s not uncommon for a baseball player to
miss one or even two months depending on the severity of the injury.
The Mavs are in a tough position. It’s imperative that Marion be healthy in the playoffs, or else they will seriously struggle against a number of very tough wings (Durant, Manu Ginobil, etc.) in the postseason. However, it’s also quite important that the Mavs win as many of their remaining regular season games as possible, given the logjam in the standings right now. Then again, maybe a limited Marion won’t do much good at all, and if Shawn plays major minutes in what turns out to be a lost, the team has squandered away invaluable rest time for their prized stopper.
Handling Marion’s oblique strain won’t be simple, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume that he’ll miss tomorrow’s game against the Grizzlies. From there, we should have a better feel for how serious the injury is and how that affects the Mavs’ fortunes.