Golden State forward Donyell Marshall's eyelids are so often at
half-mast that he usually looks as if he has just stumbled out
of bed in search of his morning coffee. His demeanor is equally
low-key, which is why it's ironic that his friends tend to
shorten his first name to Yell. The laid-back Marshall could
hardly be more soft-spoken. But the nickname was more
appropriate last season, when the frustrations of his rookie
year sometimes made Yell want to scream. "If I had known what
kind of a year it was going to be," he says, "I would have...
well, I don't know what I would have done, but I would have done
What the 6'9" Marshall didn't know when Minnesota made him the
fourth pick of the draft last year was that his rookie season
would sour so quickly after he signed a nine-year, $42.6 million
contract. Timberwolf coach Bill Blair used him only sporadically
because of his defensive deficiencies, and teammates, media and
fans questioned his intelligence, courage and work habits.
"Thick as a brick. And a real wuss," one local columnist wrote,
under the headline mellow marshall $42 million mistake. The
Wolves gave up on Marshall in a hurry, trading him to Golden
State for forward Tom Gugliotta on Feb. 18.
"He didn't seem to want to work to get better," Minnesota
forward Doug West said after the trade. "He seemed to want to
just come in and start putting the ball up. I think Donyell is a
young player who needs a lot of guidance."
Marshall acknowledges that he was a poor defender and that his
attitude wasn't exactly exemplary, but he doesn't think he was
the only one who made mistakes. He reached his limit when Blair
chastised him for giving up 32 points to Dallas forward Jamal
Mashburn. "This is the same Jamal who scored 50 against Scottie
Pippen, one of the best defenders in the league," Marshall says.
"It seemed no matter what I did, I could not get a starting job
or increase my playing time. I was tired of working hard and
getting nothing for it."
Marshall and the Timberwolves were mutually disappointed by the
time he was traded to the Warriors. He was clearly a better
player for Golden State than he had been for Minnesota,
averaging 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds as a Warrior, compared
with 10.8 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Timberwolves, and he
points to his success with Golden State as proof that his
problems in Minnesota weren't all due to his failings. "They
said I was soft, that I didn't like to stick my nose in under
the boards," he says. "Then how is it that I was in double
figures in points and rebounds more times in 32 games with
Golden State [seven times] than I was in 40 games with Minnesota
[two]? With the Warriors, I knew my role and I knew how much I
was going to play. That makes all the difference in the world."
Marshall was so frustrated in Minnesota that he found himself
arguing with referees and his coaches more than he ever had
before. "He had a rap on him about his attitude more than
anything else," says Bob Lanier, who was the Warriors' interim
coach when Marshall arrived last season. "But we didn't see any
of those problems. He came to practice and he asked questions.
Still, the doubts about Marshall remain. A year ago he was
linked with the top three picks--Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd and
Grant Hill--as the cream of the '94 draft, but several of the
players drafted after him have made a bigger impact, including
Juwan Howard, Brian Grant and Eddie Jones. Marshall played well
enough with the Warriors to avoid being labeled the biggest bust
of an exceptionally strong draft, but this is the season in
which his reputation will be established, for better or worse.
"Getting traded to the Warriors was like a rebirth," he says.
"The people who only saw me last season don't know what kind of
player I am yet. Let them watch me this year, and then they can
make up their minds."
Marshall's critics would be wise not to give up on him too
quickly--he has a history of proving his doubters wrong, even
when they include himself. As a high school star at Reading
(Pa.) High, he was originally passed over for the prestigious
Nike camp for the country's top high school players. But his
coach's lobbying earned Donyell an invitation, and he was
eventually voted one of the top six players at the camp. When he
was a freshman at the University of Connecticut, Marshall was so
overwhelmed by the quality of the competition that he told coach
Jim Calhoun that he wasn't sure he was good enough to play in
the Big East.
But Calhoun had seen enough of Marshall's effortless style and
condorlike wingspan to know that all his young forward needed
was time, and the coach persuaded him to be patient. Marshall
wound up winning the conference's freshman of the year award.
"What people have to remember is that Donyell has improved every
year since high school," says Calhoun. "Once he makes the
adjustment to a new level, he takes off. There's no reason to
think he won't continue that pattern."
Like Marshall, Golden State is trying to rebound from a season
that began with promise but quickly went downhill. New coach
Rick Adelman and G.M. Dave Twardzik both called Marshall the day
the lockout ended to talk about their plans for the season, and
although they didn't discuss whether Marshall would start or
come off the bench, he sees himself playing behind Chris Mullin
at small forward.
"Donyell is a tremendous raw talent," says Adelman. "He's a
natural scorer, and he has the long arms to block shots and
rebound. Once he gets his feet on the ground in this league,
he's going to be every bit the player people expected him to be."
Then Marshall will really have something to yell about.
COLOR PHOTO: SAM FORENCICH/NBA PHOTOS Marshall, glad to be out of Minnesota, says judge him by this year's performance. [Donyell Marshall]
COLOR PHOTO: SAM FORENCICH "Once Donyell adjusts to a new level," says his former coach, "he takes off." [Donyell Marshall]