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Martin puts Thunder in free agency pickle
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On June 30, 2013 @ 8:57 pm In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma City Thunder are facing a fork in the road — again.
For all the well-deserved adulation heaped upon the San Antonio Spurs during their unexpected run to the NBA Finals, the Thunder’s fall from Western Conference grace helped pave their way. Russell Westbrook went down with a devastating meniscus tear in his right knee in the second game of the playoffs, and the team that had already retooled by trading James Harden to the Houston Rockets in October had diminished firepower again en route to a second-round end against the Memphis Grizzlies.
And now, there’s this: Their third-leading scorer and the unofficial replacement for Harden, shooting guard Kevin Martin, is a free agent who is seriously considering leaving town. Martin told USA TODAY Sports that he has an interest in returning to the Thunder, but it’s clear he’s looking around and well aware of how unlikely it is that they’ll offer the sort of contract he’s looking for. The list of teams who are known to have an interest in him is long and intriguing, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Thunder have a payroll that currently stands at about $67 million and will increase quickly if they delve too deep into the league’s luxury tax, expected to be near the $72 million mark. Because Oklahoma City has Martin’s Bird rights, the league rules stipulate that they can offer him a contract up to maximum salary. Yet as the situation with Harden showed, the Thunder have no plans to go the way of the Brooklyn Nets and wind up with one of the league’s most expensive teams. The combination of those two factors means Martin likely will move on.
“I know they have tough decisions based on their salary cap and I have tough decisions because I’m 30 years old and I still feel like I’m … the top shooting guard, actually starting shooting guard, in this free agency,” Martin said by phone. “Both sides have positions, and I think we’ll face them in the upcoming week and … [For more on Kevin Martin puts Thunder in free agency pickle, click here.]
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