Jazz's veterans, victories make Marshall feel young

ON THE NBA

March 11, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

In today's NBA, where a 22-year-old is as likely to have skipped college as to have completed it, a 27-year-old, seven-year veteran like Utah's Donyell Marshall is a virtual graybeard.

But, in a locker room like Utah's, where players are so old that coach Jerry Sloan says jokingly, "We have to rest them before we come over here for the game. We can't afford to send them to breakfast because we might [tire] out on the way over there," Marshall is practically a "diaper dandy."

Marshall, a 6-foot-9 forward in his first season in Utah, was reminded of just how young he is relative to his teammates during a December trip to New York.

The Jazz's team plane was waiting on the airport tarmac for a bus to pick them up and take them to the hotel. During the wait, guard John Starks pulled out a boom box and started cranking R & B music that was, shall we say, decidedly old-school, and teasing Marshall and a couple of his younger teammates about their age.

"We just had an hour of fun on the plane. That's the way we are. You don't see anything flashy. All you see is the screens, the picks. You see basketball," Marshall said.

Moreover, you're seeing winning basketball from Utah, as the veteran Jazz, with eight players 30 years or older, seems poised to extend its streak of playoff appearances to 18 straight years - the fourth longest in league history, and the second-longest active mark, just one behind Portland.

Marshall (Connecticut), taken by Minnesota with the third pick in the 1994 draft, could have gone to a number of bad teams to be a star after dismal stints with the Timberwolves and Golden State. But, he chose to take his silky-smooth game to the Great Salt Lake, where he could just fit in with newcomers like Starks and forward Danny Manning and win.

"It's been real good because I'm just able to go out there and play. I'm not expected to go out there and score 20 or 25 points a night. I'm expected to go out there and do whatever I can to help this team win. They always tell you to just play without thinking. If you can do that, it makes it so much easier," Marshall said.

Playing alongside Hall of Famers like guard John Stockton and forward Karl Malone, neither of whom shows signs of slowing down in their 17th and 16th seasons, respectively, has made things a bit easier as well for Marshall, whose scoring (13.3 per game this season) is above his career average (11.5), while his rebounding (6.9) is right around his average (6.6).

"That [Stockton and Malone's work ethic] was the key for me, and it's a good key for a lot of the young guys that come to this team. When you see your older guys and your veterans working that hard, you will work hard, because you don't want to let them down, especially these two," Marshall said.

"They'll tell you how they feel. You don't want to get on their bad side. It's something that I needed in my career. I needed somebody to teach me how to come in and approach the season and the games the right way. I think it's starting to show."

Quiz

The Houston Rockets are making a late push at the final playoff spot in the West, mainly on the backs of the Central Division, which, to date, the Rockets have swept through 14 games with two left, including Tuesday's meeting with Indiana.

Only one other NBA team has ever swept a division (also the Central) in a season, and it happened within the past 20 years. Name the team. (Hint: This team played for a championship.)

Quick thought

If the NBA is willing to count coach Larry Brown's American Basketball Association wins toward his career total (he recently went over the 1,000 career victory mark) and includes standings and records from the defunct league, why won't it count points scored in player career totals?

Just wondering.

Blazer fade?

With the addition of Rod Strickland this week, Portland now has the greatest collection of talent in the league, but Thursday night's 14-point home loss to San Antonio may come to serve as Exhibit A for why the Trail Blazers won't win a title the way they're presently constituted.

The fourth quarter alone of the 93-79 loss to the Spurs, on a night where Tim Duncan hit only four of 16 shots, laid out the serious difficulties coach Mike Dunleavy is going to have down the stretch, juggling this team and its fragile egos.

For one thing, Dunleavy yanked Strickland, who had engineered a mini-comeback in the period, to get starting point guard Damon Stoudamire back in the game to keep him happy. Dunleavy has far too many things to worry about beyond trying to juggle minutes among Stoudamire, Strickland and the injured Greg Anthony.

Like keeping his volatile All-Star forward Rasheed Wallace in games. Wallace, who set a record last season with 38 technical fouls, picked up two Thursday and was ejected, bringing his season total to 36.

Wallace, who delivered a nasty diatribe during All-Star weekend that he didn't care what people outside his family thought about him, has so poisoned the well between himself and league officials that he may never get the benefit of a call.

"It [Wallace's temper] is a major problem," said Portland's Detlef Schrempf. "I think it should have been addressed a long time ago, but it hasn't been. [Now], it's too late."

Dunleavy had better hope not, for his team's sake and for his own.

Quiz answer

The only team to date to sweep a division in a season was the 1982-83 Los Angeles Lakers, who went 12-0 against the Central Division, but were swept by Philadelphia in the league championship series.

Quote of the Week

"I was telling Tim that he's the Cornish hen. As far as spring chickens go, I'm old and frozen and at the bottom of the freezer."- San Antonio forward Sean Elliott, on teammate Tim Duncan.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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