Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What Happened To That Boy? Part Deuce

Yesterday, we brought you the first installment of What Happened To That Boy? featuring Sebastian Telfair, and today we bring you the downfall (though not as colossal) of Bassy's older and more famous cousin, Stephon Marbury.

The sad part is that Marbury's downward spiral has always been slow but more public than Sebastian. They both were highly touted point guards coming out of Lincoln High School, but Stephon was undeniably the top guard in his class. Steph went to college (albeit for one year at Georgia Tech, where he was All-ACC) and was the fifth pick in the loaded '96 Draft, taken by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the number four pick Ray Allen.

Minnesota already featured a budding star in second year forward Kevin Garnett, who Marbury had known since high school. (They were both big names in the class of '95.) Steph and KG hit it off big in '96-'97. Garnett became an All-Star, Marbury came in second to Philly's Allen Iverson in the Rookie of the Year race, and the Wolves (along with forward Tom Gugliotta) made their first-ever postseason appearance, losing in the first round to the Rockets.

Steph and KG had it all. Big covers, big money (KG signed the biggest deal in the NBA, seven years/$126 million, uh oh), and they were seen as the new school Stockton and Malone.

That is, however, until Marbury unexpectedly asked for a trade out of Minnesota, claiming he wanted to be closer to his home of New York City. Some close to Stephon and Kevin said Marbury was fueled by jealousy of Garnett's massive salary and that he wanted to go somewhere he would be The Man, preferably to the Knicks. Of course, Kevin McHale sent him to New Jersey to rot.

And that's exactly what he did. Yeah, he put up his numbers (threatened to win the 2001 NBA scoring title) and made the All-Star Game that season (because someone was injured), but he was absolutely obscure in the Meadowlands. Any talks of him as one of the L's best pgs were fading by the day and he turned into another talented player putting up huge stats on a horrible squad.

Soon, he had worn out his welcome in Jersey. He was traded to the Suns straight up for Jason Kidd, only because Kidd had been involved in a domestic abuse situation that the Suns organization didn't want to deal with. The next year, Phoenix with Marbury suddenly transformed into a lottery team, while J. Kidd flourished with the same players Marbury couldn't, as the Nets not only made the postseason, but advanced to the NBA Finals in consecutive seasons as Kidd came in second in MVP voting in 2002.

With Steph at the helm in the desert, the Suns only made the playoffs once, in '03 (Marbury also made his second - and probably last - All-Star game that year), and he began to wear out his welcome again. A trend was developing.

In January '04, recently hired Knicks team president Isiah Thomas pulled the trigger on a deal that finally brought Starbury to his desired destination, his hometown New York Knicks. Steph provided a spark for the morbid Knicks, helping them to the playoffs for the first time in two years. Ironically, they faced the defending Eastern Conference champs the New Jersey Nets in the first round, pitting Marbury vs. Kidd, who were traded for each other three years earlier. The Knicks were swept as Marbury was badly outplayed. Things began to sink faster from then on.

The next season, the Knicks headed back to the lottery as the world watched his old Phoenix team net the league's best record behind MVP Steve Nash, considered the consummate point guard Stephon would never be. In 2005-06, he clashed with new Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, and the team had one of its worst seasons ever with only 23 wins. Ugh. Coach Brown was gone after one season.

Last season was the same shit different coach. Isiah Thomas took over and, despite improved play mid-season that almost got them to the playoffs, the Knicks tailed off and took a trip back to Lotteryland. Only this time they had no picks to salvage them. (NY gave away their first round pick in the horrendous Eddy Curry trade in '05.)

So what really happened to Starbury? He was set to be one of the top pgs in the league for years to come. When he proclaimed he was the "best point guard in the league in 2006, everyone (including probably his teammates) laughed at him. Him and Iverson were supposed to be the new big NBA rivalry that would carry the league to the 21st century. What happened?

Well, it all started in 1999 when he asked out of the Twin Cities. That was the dream scenario for a young, highly touted point guard coming straight out of college. He had the ball in his hands from day one. He had an All-Star big man that would not only make the game (and wins) easier to come by, but would help boost those point and assist stats (which he loves so much.) He had a young squad that, with a few upgrades, would have been a perennial contender in the NBA for more than a decade. He had a great friend in KG, someone to go through the ups and downs of the league with. So what if it was always cold, or McHale was running things, the Wolves had too much talent to not get better. Instead, he banished himself out to the swamps in New Jersey. Remember when he wrote "All Alone" on his shoes? He did it to himself. Stephon Marbury should never, ever complain about the lack of talent around him. No one wants to hear it.

Now he's stuck on a capped-out, fantasy team mess with absolutely no direction and him as pretty much the only tradeable asset. Isiah Thomas is running the show. (God help them!) He's 30 years old and has been traded four times. Four times! He has played on too many bad teams to be considered one of the best players in the league and has been exposed as a "point guard" who doesn't desire to be one and has no considerable leadership qualities. Then to top it off, he says he wants to play in Italy in two years. Wonder if anyone will know he's gone?

That's it for this week, ya'll. I'm going out of town with the wifey tomorrow to beautiful Florida and she probably won't let me type 1300 word blogs on vacation. I'll get at you on Sunday.

P.S. If you don't have that Underground Kingz by now, kill yourself!

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