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MavsFanFinley
10-07-2003, 09:59 PM
Suns extend point guard's contract four years

By MEL REISNER, AP Sports Writer
October 7, 2003

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns extended Stephon Marbury's contract for four years Tuesday, giving the All-Star point guard the richest deal ever offered to a professional athlete in Arizona and locking up his services through 2008-09.

``I knew this was going to be the place that I wanted to play basketball,'' Marbury said.

He made up his mind after Allen Iverson signed an extension with the Philadelphia 76ers on Sept. 24.

``I called (team president) Bryan Colangelo and said, `I want to get my deal done. I want to do it now,' and Bryan was like, `OK, no problem,''' Marbury said.

Marbury, an All-Star in 2001 and 2003, has two years left on a $70.9 million, six-year contract he signed with the New Jersey Nets in 1999. It will pay him $13.5 million this season and $14.6 million in 2004-05.

The value of the four extension years will vary from $76 million to $80 million, depending on how the NBA adjusts the salary cap.

Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo, also the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, saw the street-tough side of a younger Marbury -- who grew up on New York's Coney Island -- during past collective bargaining sessions.

Since then, the owner said, Marbury's maturity curve has risen sharply.

``I love his toughness, No. 1; I love his competitiveness, No. 2,'' Colangelo said. ``In the world of sports or the world of life, who do you want with you in the trenches in time of war? Stephon Marbury is the kind of guy I want with me in the foxhole.''

The announcement was made before the Suns' exhibition opener against the Nets, who traded Marbury for Jason Kidd on July 18, 2001.

The trade, which involved other players, was ridiculed as one-sided the first season, with Kidd carrying the Nets to the NBA Finals while the Suns skidded to their worst record in 14 years (36-46) and missed the playoffs.

During that offseason, Marbury was arrested for drunken driving, hitting bottom when he had to serve jail time before reporting for training camp in 2002. He also had surgery on both ankles, and never had a pain-free game, but persevered to one of his best seasons.

``I'm certainly excited to have Stephon, knowing he's going to be here six years to lead our ballclub,'' coach Frank Johnson said. ``He reminded me today that this is his eighth year, and he certainly knows what it takes to be a leader.

``He demonstrated that last year on and off the court.''

Marbury was the only player in the top 12 in scoring (22.3 points per game) and assists (8.1), and even had a career-high 20 blocks in 81 games.

He scored at least 40 points five times -- netting a team-record 26 in the fourth quarter against San Antonio on Nov. 29 -- and had 20 or more in 36 of the last 49 games.

``I never felt we had to justify the trade,'' Colangelo said. ``We're talking about two premier players. One was 6 or 7 years younger than the other. Marbury still had a lot of upside to his game and to his maturity, and if that were to be fulfilled, then you've got a star player for a longer period.''

Marbury had operations on both ankles again in May and said he feels fit and ready for this season.

He has averaged 21.3 points, 8.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds in two seasons with Phoenix, becoming the team's first player with consecutive 20-point seasons since Charles Barkley in 1994-96.

Marbury left Georgia Tech after one season to enter the NBA at the age of 19.

Milwaukee made him the No. 4 overall pick in 1996, then sent him to Minnesota on draft day for Ray Allen. The Timberwolves traded Marbury to New Jersey on March 11, 1999.