Shawn Marion was talking to a friend who compared a basketball player's body to cars — a passion of his when he's not on the basketball court — and the analogy made perfect sense.
"Cars break down when they get older because you put a lot of miles on them," said Marion, who turned 27 in May. "But if you take care of them, they'll be fine."
The Suns know they are asking a lot from Marion's non-stop motor these days. With Amaré Stoudemire out and big man Kurt Thomas struggling to adjust to Phoenix's up-tempo style, Marion has produced double figures in both points and rebounds in all of Phoenix's first six games — something only San Antonio's Tim Duncan has matched so far this season.
He'll try to make it 7-for-7 Wednesday night against Memphis at the newly dubbed US Airways Center.
In addition to leading the Suns in scoring (18.8 per game), Marion ranks second in the NBA in rebounding (13.3) to Denver's Marcus Camby (14.1) and chips in 2.7 assists, two blocks and 1.7 steals to the cause while playing almost 42 minutes a game.
Only two players in the league are currently logging more miles, er, minutes.
But while "the Matrix" might hem and haw a bit about all that is expected of him — and going against the league's top power forwards with his 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame — night-in and night-out, he wouldn't have it any other way.
Besides, Suns coach Mike D'Antoni would keep running him out there anyway, because no one on the team — or in the league — does it quite like Marion.
"You don't take him for granted, but he's so fast and he makes it look so easy it's amazing," D'Antoni said recently. "He's the Matrix, so he doesn't get tired . . . well, the Matrix doesn't get tired — Shawn Marion gets tired as hell — and we ask a lot of him every night."
D'Antoni put his brother and new assistant coach, Dan, to "the Matrix Test" after a preseason game.
"Before he looked at the stat sheet I asked Dan, ‘What did Shawn do tonight?’ He said, ‘I don't know . . . 12 points and six rebounds?’ Then you look down and he had 28 points and 20 boards. I've been here three years, and you still don't realize what he's doing out there."
Some of it doesn't show up on the stat sheet. Without Stoudemire, Marion said he's setting more picks than ever — mostly as a decoy to free up other Phoenix shooters. And without Stoudemire around to wow the crowd with a high-flying dunk, Marion tries to get the most out of his jam chances.
“Dunks not only pump up the crowd, they pump up your teammates, too," Marion said. "But at the same time, I can't leave early (on a fast break) because getting those rebounds are big for us."
Can Marion lead the league in rebounding as a 6-7 player with more than one dimension (unlike say, Dennis Rodman)?
"I enjoy rebounding and I take pride in it," Marion said. "But what do you get for a rebounding title? A mention in the paper? I want to do what we need to win, and if that's the most important thing, that's what I'll do."
BONUS SHOTS: Raja Bell bruised his wrist in Saturday's win over Golden State but practiced Monday and should be a go Wednesday against the Grizzlies. . . . D'Antoni said he was leaning toward sticking with the same starting lineup (Thomas, Marion, Bell, Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash) but could go to Boris Diaw because Memphis plays a bigger lineup. . . . The Suns lead the league with 27.3 assists per game, with Nash the NBA's individual leader at 11.3.