Getting traded and waived turned out to be not so bad for Kendall Marshall’s NBA career

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 30, 2014 

— Kendall Marshall keeps a long list on his smartphone. For lack of a better description, call it his “Grudge App.”

It’s everything he has heard over the years about why he’s not all that as a point guard.

“I like to use negativity as a motivator – the told-you-so factor,” the former North Carolina star said Thursday after Los Angeles Lakers practice.

“Coming out of high school I was ranked the No. 9 point guard, and I didn’t think there were eight guys better,” he said.“My sophomore year in college not being named first-team All-ACC. … My first year (in the NBA) being traded. Then being waived. That all made up a list I look at.”

The first 19 months of Marshall’s NBA career have been odd. He went from a lottery pick to being traded to being waived to playing in the NBA’s Development League. Then he signed with the Lakers when they were desperate for help at his position.

The past six weeks he has put up spectacular numbers in assists (9.5 per game) and 3-point accuracy (47.3 percent). Extrapolate those numbers over a full season, and Marshall would be in an All-Star discussion.

So, yeah, when Marshall starts Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, he can review his “Grudge App” and smile.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said. “It’s nice to settle down somewhere, not live in a hotel. At least I know I’m here for the rest of the year. Or at least I think so, with the trade deadline.”

That word – “trade” – must be unsettling. Early this season the Phoenix Suns – the team that drafted Marshall 12th overall in 2012 – moved center Marcin Gortat to the Wizards, receiving Emeka Okafor and a first-round pick.

To help make salaries match, Marshall also went to Washington. He welcomed the prospect because he wasn’t playing for the Suns and he’s from northern Virginia.

Then within an hour he was told the Wizards were waiving him. They wrote off a $2 million salary to make him unemployed.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was among many inquiring about his state of mind. Marshall went into isolation.

“I took it really hard,” Marshall said.

After time to brood, Marshall realized this was an opportunity to address deficiencies – become a better shooter, develop more feel, rebuild the confidence. A few weeks with the Delaware 87ers of the D-League helped.

“I got to work on some stuff and play a lot of minutes,” Marshall said. “Mentally I came a long way from last year.”

That’s when the Lakers called. Injuries had become absurd. Point guards Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all were down. Marshall became their sixth starting point guard this season.

“All Kendall did to get playing time was show up,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “But he’s also played extremely well. First off, running the team – his assist-to-turnover ratio (better than 3:1) is extremely good. And he’s leading the league in 3-point shooting, when that was one of his weak points.”

Marshall finds it half-amusing/half-perplexing that a rookie worthy of being chosen in the lottery can so quickly be written off as a bust.

“I’m 22 years old. I’m still evolving as a player,” he said. “Look at a guy like Ty Lawson – he’s 26 and he’s still getting better. So much of this is about opportunity.”

Specifically Marshall meant a chance to learn from mistakes without fear:

“If you’re on the court, not looking over your shoulder every time you turn the ball over, then you get to learn from experience. That’s a real chance to figure out what passes I can and can’t get away with or how to defend guys.”

Going forward it might be different. Nash, Blake and Farmar are all close to returning. But Marshall has left an impression.

“We have the option to move some other guys off the ball,” D’Antoni said when asked about Marshall’s future role. “He’s got to keep playing well. But there’s a niche for him.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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