NBA AM: Martin Wants to Remain in OKC
Kevin Martin had big shoes to fill on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After trading James Harden to the Houston Rockets before the season, the Thunder saw Martin as the perfect replacement. The 29-year-old was an elite scorer who could provide a spark off of the bench, just as Harden had done last season to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Harden had not only been the league’s best reserve and one of Oklahoma City’s best players, but he was also a fan favorite. Now, Martin was supposed to step into the same role and ensure that the Thunder didn’t miss a beat.
That’s a lot to ask of a player – even a veteran who has been in the league for eight seasons – especially as he’s getting acclimated to a new city, team and system. There were many doubters who criticized the deal and refused to believe that Martin could replace Harden. Some critics went so far as to say that the Thunder had gift-wrapped the Western Conference for the Los Angeles Lakers with this trade.
However, 25 games into the 2012-13 NBA season, that hasn’t been the case.
Martin hasn’t disappointed in Oklahoma City, averaging 15.7 points in 29.6 minutes while knocking down 46.9 percent of his shots from the field and 45.8 percent of his three-pointers.
And Martin couldn’t be happier in Oklahoma City. For the first time in his career, he’s on a legitimate contender. He has only been the postseason once – as a reserve with the 2005-06 Sacramento Kings – and he has become close with his new teammates. Martin says that even though he’s coming off of the bench for the Thunder, this is the most fun that he’s had in his career.
“This team has embraced me and made my transition so much easier,” Martin told HOOPSWORLD. “At this point, that’s all I can ask for. We’re going to keep getting better as the season goes on. We’re having fun now, but we feel like we still have a couple more steps to take.”
In fact, Martin is having so much fun in Oklahoma City that he could see himself signing a long-term deal with the Thunder this summer. Martin is in the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. According to sources, the Thunder has made it clear that they want to keep Martin beyond this season and the interest appears to be mutual.
“Oh yeah,” Martin said when asked if wants to stay in Oklahoma City long-term. “I get that question a lot since it’s a contract year. There are going to be teams interested over the summer, but I’m so happy right now and being with these guys has given me an extra pep in my step. It’s just fun being here. It’s a great organization and great guys. I’m happy right now.”
When asked why he has been able to continue playing at such a high level after the change of scenery, Martin credits his intense offseason workouts. Every summer, Martin travels to Clearwater, FL to work out with David Thorpe, who is the Executive Director of the Pro Training Center.
“I put in a lot of hard work this summer with my trainer David Thorpe,” Martin said. “Countless hours.”
After being the young franchise cornerstone in Sacramento and Houston, Martin can relate to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who have been asked to do a lot for the Thunder at a young age. Martin has been impressed with the duo’s leadership and he believes there’s something special about them.
“Coming to a team like this, where we have Russell and Kevin as the number one and two options, it makes life easier,” Martin said. “I realize, after being a number one guy for so many years, you have to have that extra ‘it’ to your game. That means being the first guy in the gym in the morning, being a student of the game, studying the best defenses like the Spurs and the Celtics to see how they try to stop you every game. Those are the things that make you better and they have that ‘it’ factor. We’re just trying to follow their lead and do what they do.”
Nearly two months into the season, Durant, Westbrook and Martin have been excellent, which is why the Thunder currently has the league’s best record at 21-5. Oklahoma City is on pace to win over 60 games and once again represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The team hasn’t taken a step back despite losing a key contributor, and Martin deserves a lot of credit for that.
Timberwolves Eyeing Redd or Douglas-Roberts?
Michael Redd was almost a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Back in September, the Timberwolves had been negotiating with Redd’s camp and it appeared the two sides were on the verge of agreeing to a non-guaranteed deal. The Timberwolves believed that they had landed Redd and the plan was for the veteran to attend Minnesota’s training camp and then earn a spot on the regular season roster. However, the 33-year-old surprised the team and backed out at the last minute.
Three months later, Redd is still an unrestricted free agent and once again the Timberwolves are looking for a veteran swingman. After Redd turned down Minnesota’s camp invite, the Timberwolves eventually signed Josh Howard to a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum. Howard played well during his brief stint in Minnesota, but he suffered a torn ACL one week ago and was waived yesterday.
Now, Minnesota will likely sign a veteran to replace Howard. The Timberwolves could use another healthy body, especially since Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger are still sidelined with knee injuries.
Considering the Timberwolves nearly signed Redd prior to the start of the season, he’ll likely be on the short list of wings that Minnesota considers. Last season, Redd averaged 8.2 points and 15.1 minutes over 51 games with the Phoenix Suns and didn’t seem limited by the knee injuries that sidelined him during his final years with the Milwaukee Bucks.
There has also been talk that the Timberwolves will consider Chris Douglas-Roberts, who has been dominating with the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League. Douglas-Roberts has averaged 27.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals in five games with the Legends, and is widely considered the best player in the D-League. Douglas-Roberts comes with less risk than Redd since he’s younger and doesn’t have an extensive injury history.
The Timberwolves have two choices: They can make a decision in the coming days if they want to fill their open roster spot as soon as possible or they can wait until January 7 when teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts.
All-Star Saturday Night Changes Format
The NBA’s All-Star Saturday Night needed a makeover. In recent years, there hadn’t been much interest in Saturday’s festivities, especially since stars weren’t competing in the main event – the Dunk Contest. Last year, the contest featured Jeremy Evans, Chase Budinger, Paul George and Derrick Williams, and NBA fans weren’t happy with the product as evidenced by the flood of negative tweets during the event.
Now, the NBA is changing the format of All-Star Saturday Night, which may make things more interesting. The Eastern Conference will be taking on the Western Conference in the four events – the Shooting Stars, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout and Dunk Contest.
Both conferences will earn points in the four challenges and the winning conference will be named the All-Star Saturday Night Champion. The winning conference’s charities will get $350,000 and $150,000 will go to the runner-up conference’s charities.
This is just the latest change that the NBA has made to spice up All-Star Weekend. Last year, the NBA changed the format of the Rising Stars Challenge, featuring two drafted teams comprised of a mix of rookies and sophomores rather than having the first-year players take on the second-year players.
All-Star Saturday Night will take place on February 16, and it’ll be televised live on TNT.
Do you like the change to All-Star Saturday Night? Let us know in the comment section below.