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Marshall law: Have jumper, then be one
Friday, November 11, 2005
Plain Dealer Columnist
The father tells his sons to forget the dunk. Develop an outside shot. Work on other aspects of their games.
In a city where LeBron James scrapes the sky near Quicken Loans Arena in a pose that suggests rafters coming down and firmaments to follow, that kind of advice sounds old school.
Context is everything. Donyell Marshall is the one talking.
Monday night, he brought home the perfect visual aid to make his point. His old team, the Toronto Raptors, gave him the game ball from that March night last season when he tied the NBA record with 12 3s.
"I tell them the dunk counts the same as a jump shot," Marshall said, allowing there are certain times when the slam ignites an arena and a home team. "Like what Vince [Carter] did to Alonzo [Mourning] the other night. But in general, it's overrated."
Or what the 6-9 Marshall assisted in Wednesday when he lobbed an alley-oop that James palmed and jammed while shaking hands with some fans in the 200 level. The weary and troubled Sonics were done by then, so the dunk did not deflate. It was pure spectacle.
"I'd always tell my best friend growing up that to be a good player you had to work on everything else except dunking," Marshall said. "Did he listen? No."
Marshall grew up in Reading, outside Philadelphia. Julius Erving was a spectacle all by himself. So was Sixers shooting guard Andrew Toney, whose legend included getting dressed in Boston Garden for the first time and asking the Philadelphia coaching staff, "Where's the gym in this place?" That's when they knew the parquet floor wouldn't intimidate him.
"The Boston Strangler," Marshall said of Toney's reputation as a Celtics slayer. "I always tell people how great he would have been if he didn't mess his ankles up."
Marshall had more Toney in him than Erving. He didn't grow much until the 10th grade. So he found his place on the perimeter. The blessing is he didn't feel compelled to try to rattle the rim. His shot developed first.
A thing of absolute beauty now, his outside game made its debut as a knuckleball. No rotation whatsoever. An eyesore. Lesson No. 2 for the kids: Extra points are not awarded for artistic expression, but a shooting coach never hurts.
"As long as it went in, I didn't care what it looked like," said Marshall, who kept adding pieces to his game at UConn, including a shot that became a basketball clinic showcase.
The last truly big man with his kind of range in Cleveland is the GM who brought him here.
"He's a far better player than I was," Ferry said Thursday as the Cavaliers practiced in advance of tonight's visit by Memphis. "Just look at his double doubles."
He had 13 last season, second on the Raptors. In 2003-04, Marshall was the only NBA player to rank in the top 25 in rebounds, blocked shots and 3-point percentage. He leads the Cavaliers in rebounding - something he did 20 times for Toronto a year ago while coming off the bench.
What attracted coach Mike Brown and Ferry to Marshall this past summer was the dirty work he did to go along with his perfectly rotated outside shot. He was a terrific signing.
"People don't talk about it," Brown said Thursday. "His rebounds per minute just blows you away."
Not sure it would blow away people whose heads are in the sky. It should carry some weight around the dinner table, at least Marshall's.