I guess, in times like these, we Mets fans need to stick together. So if you see famous Met fan Stephon Marbury wandering around the city with a kind of a dazed look on his face, you should probably say something supportive (“At least you’re a better husband than Jason Kidd…well probably”) and offer him directions back to the Garden.
According to the Post, with whom Stephon actually has a surprisingly decent relationship, the Knick’s point guard got on a plane out of Phoenix (where the poor Knickerbockers are going to get just brutalized by the Suns in a little while) and headed back to New York—for reasons that are unclear. Now, in sports, it is kind of a big deal that the guys on the team are supposed to travel with the team and hang out with the team unless some very emergency/life-or-death stuff is happening; this is so much the case that when Roger Clemens signed a deal that allowed him to miss road-trips with the Yankees to spend time with his family, certain people started talking about the collapse of Western civilization. The logic with Clemens was that the guy was so damn good that he could make his own rules (he turned out not to be…but that joke was on the Yankees, good times); Starbery is not Roger Clemens (this is actually the great tragedy of the man’s life) and likely to be in a lot of trouble/not a Knick any more.
Steph is simply not as good at basketball as he thought he was—and just how crazy this relatively simple revelation has made him is an interesting commentary on the state of our athletic culture. Stephon entered the NBA in 1996, and ever since then has been making a specious argument that he is one of the very elite players in the game. He simply isn’t. His numbers aren’t that great, and teams always improve their record after he leaves. It is ok to be worse at basketball than Michael Jordan—Stephon Marbury is a good basketball player, perhaps even above average in the NBA. But he never seems to have quite gotten his head around the idea that there is no shame in not being the absolute best—in being a good (not great) pass-first point guard, playing limited minutes, or, in certain situations, coming off of the bench. Stephon could obviously have been an amazing role-player on a great team; but the philosophy of motivational posters has very little to offer role-players, and very little encouragement for those players who need to make terms with their mediocrity to succeed.
In 05-06, when Steph was in the process of getting Larry Brown run out of New York, he came through with the claim that he was the best point guard in the NBA. This claim was ridiculed at the time, and Marbury, whose play has deteriorated while other guard’s play has maintained and even improved, has to wish that he’d kept his mouth shut. Tonight, Marbury’s Knicks will get eaten alive by Steve Nash’s Suns, and the fact that Nash has been considered (by manny) the best player in the NBA, let alone point guard, since approximately the time of Steph’s comments, might have something to do with Marbury’s absence.