NBA AM: Kevin Martin Saw Trade Coming
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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As Kevin Martin, now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, prepared for the 2012-13 season with the Houston Rockets, he knew his time with the team was coming to an end. The franchise was clearly in rebuilding mode and had actually traded him prior to last seasom in a three-way deal for Pau Gasol that was vetoed in its final stages. They invested their highest draft pick in another shooting guard during the offseason, which told Martin all he needed to know.
“I knew it was going to come at some point, with next summer being an unrestricted free agent and them in rebuilding mode,” Martin said to HOOPSWORLD. “I knew it was going to come at some point, but I prepare every year to be where I’m at the start of training camp and have a great year.”
What surprised Martin was where he was traded to. His entire career he’s been successful, averaging 18 points over eight seasons, but he’s never been on a serious contender. Now with the Thunder, he has his best chance ever to win at a high rate and compete for a championship.
“It felt surreal,” Martin said. “You’re coming from a rebuilding team to a championship-caliber squad. You just want to do everything in your power to help them get that. With hard work and being a great teammate and learning the system, I think we can do that.
“I felt great. You always look at the offense and defensive aspect of the game and how you translate. I know how they are defensively. I feel like I can fit right in there and offensively I’m just a guy who likes to work off each other, other teammates with somebody like Nick Collison, who kind of plays like Brad Miller and also a point guard like Eric Manor, they’re just great gel guys.”
While Martin missed out on training camp with the Thunder, he did get a couple of practices with the team under his belt before their first game against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. He also joined the team with some familiarity of head coach Scott Brooks’ system, as he played for coach Brooks during his third year in Sacramento.
“It’s going to help a lot,” Martin said of his familiarity with Brooks. “I know exactly what he expects out of me. I’ve been with him my third year and know what he expects out of everyone: come in and play hard, be a team guy. I think it’s going to be a pretty easy transition.
“I think it’s going to take a little time, but it’s going to be a great transition. I think the years past have helped me become a better player and now coming in here with two big-time offensive players it’s going to make it a lot easier on my game.”
Martin understands that the only thing he really has to worry about with the Thunder is winning a championship. They came up short in that quest last year and are determined to finish the job this year, something Martin fully believes they can do.
“We have the right pieces,” Martin said. “Talent won’t be a problem when it comes to winning a championship. We just have to build the chemistry that they had. I think that’s going to take us very far.”
Wondering what the Thunder’s leader Kevin Durant, a close friend of James Harden, thought of the blockbuster trade? HOOPSWORLD caught up with him prior to Thursday’s home opener. Click here to view the video interview where Durant discusses the trade at length and the state of the Thunder moving forward!
Kobe Gets Defensive About The Offense: The Los Angeles Lakers were deemed the best team on paper this offseason after acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Yet, two games into the season, they’re winless. Not only are they winless, but they weren’t even in a position to win against the beat up Dallas Mavericks and rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers. They both took it to them soundly, which has led to a lot of criticism. Head coach Mike Brown and his offense has come under fire in particular, prompting his star player Kobe Bryant to come to his defense.
“I’ll say it for [Brown]: Everybody, shut up,” Bryant said after practice Thursday. “Let us work and at the end of the day, you’ll be happy with the result.
“I just don’t understand. The city here, for me, not trying to bite my tongue and not calling them dumb, which I kind of just did, but they’ve seen us win multiple championships here playing in an offense that was tough to learn. They know how that stuff works. So for them to be so stupid now and say, ‘Let Steve [Nash] dribble the ball around and create opportunity for everybody. Let Dwight [Howard] post up. Or let me iso.’
“I won’t say idiotic, but it’s close.”
Bryant has a far bigger problem with the team’s defense right now, not the offense.
“We’re scoring a lot of points, efficiently,” Bryant said. “So, I mean, that’s not what we’re hanging our hats on in terms of why we’re losing the games. We’re not executing the defense, which has a lot to do with guys not being on the same page and working together.
Experienced Booker Ready For It All: Washington Wizards power forward Trevor Booker is entering his third season with the team. He developed well as a sophomore, upping his averages to eight points and six rebounds a game. However, the team made serious changes to their frontline, adding Nene and Emeka Okafor, who he will now have to battle for minutes. Rather than being frustrated by that, Booker has embraced their arrival and really believes in the frontline’s potential.
“[I think we can be] very strong,” Booker said to HOOPSWORLD. “Not only offensively, but defensively. I think we can be a great defensive team especially down low.”
Currently Booker is still starting since Nene is battling an injury. Injuries have been a common theme for the Wizards so far, but Booker isn’t taking it upon himself to do more and feel pressured in Nene’s absence.
“I’m just going to go out and play my game,” Booker said. “If I have an open shot, I’m going to take it. If they need me to score in the post I’ll do that. Whatever the team needs. I think mostly the biggest thing for me is just getting experience. The more experience I get the better I feel on the court, the more confident I feel. I think it’s showing.
“It was kind of difficult, especially trying to get the chemistry going with all the guys. But at the same time, injuries happen so you have to go with the guys you have and go out there and play the game.
“I think we did a pretty good job as a team developing chemistry. We still have a couple of people out so for us to come in and do our job with the way that we played, I think we did a pretty good job.”
The biggest injury of all has been the right knee setback of starting point guard John Wall, who is projected to be out until December. When he returns the way the team plays will change completely. They can get back to the up-tempo style they’re built for, which bodes well for everyone on the team.
“He’s our point guard,” Booker said. “He’s a big key to this team. He gets us going. His injury is definitely going to impact the team but at the same time we have other point guards.”
While he’s out, the Wizards will be relying on veterans A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo. They lost their season opener to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but have an opportunity to bounce back Saturday against the Boston Celtics in their home opener.
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NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on schedule for today, starting with mine at 11 am est. You can get your questions in here on all things NBA and NCAA as well. Following me up at 3 pm EST will be salary cap and CBA expert Larry Coon. Larry’s chats fill up fast, so get your questions in here early.