Sebastian Telfair is ahead of Kendall Marshall on the Phoenix Suns depth chart at the point guard position. If he isn't - he should be.
"BUT BUT BUT... rabble rabble KENDALL MARSHALL... is the future -GASP- he needs the minutes to develop and become STEVE NASH reincarnate!"
When Marshall was drafted and Steve Nash was traded, some fans were (and many still are) calling for his development as a point guard to come by immersion, or in other words, throw him completely into the water of playing time and leadership responsibility and hope that he can learn to swim in that ocean.
And then Goran Dragic was signed. The conversation then swirled around how great of a back-up Marshall would be and that maybe he should even play more minutes than a normal back-up, or how awesome the Suns' second unit would be with 'KButter' at the helm this year.
All the while there has been little to no mention of our young 26 year old eight year NBA veteran Sebastian Telfair. Remember him? The young spark plug that struggled for the majority of the season, who even at one point lost the back-up point guard spot to Ronnie Price early in the season. Remember him? Or what about the player who after the all-star break started to understand Alvin Gentry's offense, who had something click like a light switch and who orchestrated as great of a second half of the season turn-around as we've seen in a while?
The guy who almost single-handedly kept the Phoenix Suns in the hunt for a playoff spot as the regular season wound down. Remember him? He won the Dan Majerle Hustle Award last year as well as the hearts of many Suns fans with his unrelenting defense and occasionally electric offense. Remember him yet?
Kendall Marshall is a rookie and we all need to be reminded of that fact. I'm not insulting nor am I trying to knock or discredit the talent or potential of our 13th overall lottery pick of 2012. Until training camp starts in three months and unless something crazy happens there - nothing Marshall has done up to this point has earned him a spot ahead of Telfair on the depth chart.
Basketball by Immersion?
Listen, I've heard the argument and I think I fully understand it a little more than most. The concept of development by immersion is a great one because it works really well with some things. One thing it works really well for is learning a new language. That's where my experience comes in.
At the age of 19 I served a volunteer proselytizing mission for my religion and was sent for two years into the depths of the southernmost states of Mexico. Now, I didn't pay much attention in high-school Spanish class so I was going in culturally blind and linguistically ignorant. I was given only nine weeks of intense Spanish studies at a training facility in the U.S. before I was shipped to Chiapas, Mexico - paired with a native companion (who did not speak English) and turned loose into the city to teach our beliefs to anyone who would listen.
I thought with my nine weeks of Spanish-all-day I would be able to understand and speak my mind somewhat - but when I actually set foot in Mexico and heard the language as it's spoken by people who aren't trying to teach me and dumb it down... I was completely lost. They spoke too fast and I couldn't keep up, they didn't use all the cookie-cutter words I had been taught. It was overwhelming. That's what learning by immersion usually is.
Did I eventually learn Spanish? Yes - actually really fast, within six months I was at a level where I felt I could understand almost everything and pretty much accurately speak whatever was on my mind. From there - it was a constant learning experience as I added new vocabulary, slang, axioms, accents and etc. to my Spanish repertoire. I can say that, though it was overwhelming - immersion was a great way to learn a new language.
But is it a great way to transition from college basketball to the NBA?
Some players are just ready - they have stormed into the NBA from college or high school and have no problem assimilating to the fast pace, the stronger bodies, the more elaborate scheming and the higher level of play overall. Those players are few and far between - those players had no troubles at all dominating in the lesser-venue that is the Summer League.
Kendall Marshall isn't one of those players. Rarely are point guards that type of player. It's been stated before and should be stated again, the Point is the hardest position to play in the NBA. It's going to take time for Marshall to develop his game and there is absolutely no need to try to rush it or create inflated expectation. Many if not most players crack and crumble at some point under the heavy expectations of performing in the NBA - if we can ease our young players into those responsibilities and expectations the load is more likely sustained than if we simply drop it on their shoulders.
But I don't even need to be explaining this... because regardless of what kind of potential Marshall has, Telfair has earned the back-up spot and Kendall will have to fight for minutes.
If you don't think he's earned it please explain yourself in detail in the comments and expect my rebuttal/s.
I think fans don't take him seriously. Six different teams in six different years, the numbers aren't good... I get it. But let me remind of some of the things written about Sebastian's second half transformation.
Through April 1, Bassy ranked dead last on the Suns by producing a -0.083 WP48. During the team's final 14 games Telfair shot all the way up to first on the entire team with a 0.212 WP48 that was percentage points ahead of Steve Nash himself!
After being a major weakness early in the season, the Suns' bench transformed into a potent unit by season's end. Now all of a sudden fans no longer held their breath when Nash rested as the bench mob extended leads and dug into deficits, sometimes even outplaying the starters in April.
The best endorsement on Telfair's turnabout came from Price, whose camp and practice battles with Telfair got so intense that they looked like they despised one another. Price lost the backup job and spent most of the season out of the rotation but sounded like Telfair's biggest fan as a free agent heading out the door.
"I'm a competitor and so is Bassy," Price said. "When you have two competitive guys going against each other at the same position every day, you're going to have some clashes. At the end of the day, we have so much respect for one another. I can push him. I can say things to Sebastian that someone else can't say. I can get on Bassy as a player getting on a friend. It's like a brotherhood. We learned from each other. The way he finished out this year, it was special."
Even an endorsement from Steve,
"Other than Goran's (Dragic) stint, we haven't really had a real successful backup point guard," Nash said. "Bassy's done a good job. Alvin (Gentry) has done a fantastic job. Our coaches have been unbelievable this year. Our coaches deserve so much credit for us being in the position we're in. We've overachieved and then some. They have given Bassy the freedom to play his game and, at the same time, molding him and giving him the discipline to do what the coaches need. It's been a pivotal part of our season turning around."
And from my own end-of-season evaluation,
I remember the game that Alvin put Telfair on Chris Paul in the final seconds of a tightly contested and important game against the Clippers - and Sebastian had proven through the course of the season that what Gentry did was the right move. I had no objection; in fact it made me smile because I believe it was the move that we all had been hoping would be made. Telfair's hustle and effort were unmatched by anyone on the team this year and that's why he was this year's Dan Majerle Hustle Award recipient.
This is my point here - Sebastian has earned the spot and now it is only his to lose. Marshall doesn't magically take it unless it's because he earns it in practice or when given the opportunity in live game situations.
From observations taken during the five game Summer League in Las Vegas, Kendall has his work cut out for him if his goals are to be the back-up point to Dragic this season.
Just to cap this off I'll reiterate this, I'm not trying to knock Marshall - or prolong his development. I actually think he is in an ideal position to learn at a comfortable and less stressful level playing behind Dragic and Telfair who both have played with Steve Nash and are sure to teach the young rook as much as he can handle.
Earn your spot rook. Work on that jumper or those fancy passes will never work.