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Versatile Marion To Pass on Option

Heat forward Shawn Marion averaged only 2.2 assists this season, but barring an 11th-hour change in direction, it looks like he's going to pass on Tuesday's 6 p.m. deadline to opt out of the final year and $17.8 million on his contract.

Reached late Monday night, agent Dan Fegan said he has informed the Heat that Marion won't opt out.

Hard to blame him. But it's just as difficult to fault the Heat for preferring to take a wait-and-see approach before committing significant money and years to Marion when there's really no rush.

Truth is, Marion wasn't going to get anywhere near even money on the open market. Truth is, the Heat probably never had any intention of committing to Marion long-term right away when it traded for him and unloaded Shaquille O'Neal's bloated contract in February. The priority for Heat president Pat Riley is - and has always been - maximum cap flexibility in the summer of 2009 and/or 2010.

Does Marion command the same kind of $60 million extension Vince Carter opted out and re-signed with New Jersey for last season? Does Marion deserve to be treated like an elite player? Probably so. Because it's hard to argue against his numbers, his production when compared with others in the league.

Only 10 players in the league averaged double figures in points and rebounds this season. Marion was one of them, although his numbers didn't register among league leaders because his season was cut short by foot and back injuries.  And there are only about 10 current players 30 or younger who have played in at least four All-Star games. Marion, 30, is among them.

But Marion's game is based largely on athleticism. And it's difficult to commit anywhere close to mid-max money to a player whose ability to run, jump, rebound and hustle might diminish each year of a possible four-year extension.

Just look at Detroit. Only a year after re-signing Chauncey Billups to a $50 million-plus extension, there's speculation that the Pistons' brass questions how much he's got left. That's also the case with Vince Carter, who certainly didn't provide the typical Vinsanity this season we've grown accustomed to.

So there's a fair argument to be made on both sides of this debate. So if Marion and the Heat don't reverse course and reach a deal today, it's understandable.




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