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NBA PM: Why OKC Is Better Without Harden
Posted By Bill Ingram On January 28, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
The most important thing to Kevin Martin throughout his NBA career has been to play for a championship team. He was promised a chance at that in Sacramento and then again in Houston, and now that he’s actually on a championship caliber team in Oklahoma City it took a minute for the reality of the situation to sink in.
“Yeah, I think it’s sunken in now,” Martin, who described the trade to OKC as a dream come true, tells HOOPSWORLD. “Took the first couple of months to realize it, but it’s been a smooth transition, everybody’s been great from the players, coaches, organization, and the community. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
After being in rebuilding situations for so many years, Martin has been impressed by the culture of winning that is so ingrained around the Thunder organization.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of different things here, starting with this being a veteran team that knows what to do and expects to win every night,” says Martin. “The one bad thing here is that when you lose a game it feels like you’re on a ten-game losing streak. That’s probably the worst part of it, but it’s been good.”
Martin has played plenty of games against Kevin Durant, but now that he’s teammates with the scoring phenom he has a greater appreciation for everything Durant brings to the table.
“He’s an amazing person on and off the court,” says Martin. “I tell people I always thought I was a scorer until I got around him. There’s just something special about him. He’s what the NBA is about.”
Many players would consider a trade like the one that sent Martin to OKC as a demotion. In Sacramento and Houston, Martin was a primary scoring option and a franchise cornerstone. In OKC he’s third in line at best, playing behind both Durant and Russell Westbrook in the pecking order . . .but that’s just fine with him.
“Yeah, it’s fine, my body is loving it right now,” says Martin. “A lot of coaches from opposing teams come up to me and say, ‘You just added three or four more years onto your career because you don’t have to go to the free throw line eight, nine, ten times a game. You can spot up sometimes or be a scorer sometimes.’ I’m just enjoying this ride.
“I’ve been in the league for nine years,” Martin continues. “I know what’s important, what adds value to your game and it was a perfect situation for me to come in and play with two superstars and be with a great team with championship aspirations. Being only 29, I still feel like I got a lot left in the tank, it’s just good right now.”
The situation looks perfect for the Thunder, as well, despite some early misgivings from fans and media alike about the team trading away James Harden. Those concerns have long since been silenced as Martin is averaging better than 15 points per game and is among the NBA’s best sixth-men.
“That just shows the girth of Kevin and Russell,” Martin explains. “They had three ball-dominant players and I’m a scorer, but not very ball-dominant. It’s just a development of their career and the organization thought they could handle and that’s what you’re seeing out of them right now. As a group, we have a lot of good chemistry.”
It remains to be seen, of course, whether the Thunder can accomplish their only goal of the season and win a championship, but there’s no question that Kevin Martin has been a great acquisition for the team. They might even be a little bit better with him in the lineup than they were with James Harden.
Rebuilding Starts Over In Phoenix
This has been a year of new beginnings for the Phoenix Suns . . .no doubt about that. They started over when they moved forward without Steve Nash and Grant Hill, and they basically started over again when they parted company with head coach Alvin Gentry last week. The fact that they’re moving forward with a first-time head coach in Lindsey Hunter makes the task that much more daunting.
“There’s a lot of work to be done and everybody realizes that,” Hunter tells HOOPSWORLD. “We also realize that we can’t overhaul everything overnight, it takes time. As much as we can, we’ll continue working on the things that we can work on, whatever that means. We do understand what’s ahead of us and everybody is excited about changing.”
“It’s a bumpy season,” agrees point guard Goran Dragic. “We’ve made a lot of changes, a lot of new guys and now it’s a new coach. It’s a learning process for us, our team, and our organization. We’re trying to rebuild and I’m only here to play basketball, so I’m trying to do my best. With a new coach we’ve won two out of four games, so hopefully we can get started going again. Just keep fighting until the end, hopefully we can turn around this season.”
Dragic feels he owes Gentry a lot for believing in him early on. As much as anyone, he was surprised when Hunter was given the reins of the team.
“I was, I was surprised, but that’s business,” Dragic tells HOOPSWORLD. “You never know when players or coaches are going to get graded or get fired. It was a hard thing for everybody because we knew him so well and he was with us for so many years, but that’s just part of the business. I will always be grateful for what he did for me, he gave me a chance in this league and I wish him all the best for the future.”
Hunter wasted little time implementing some changes, and high on his list was connecting to troubled forward Michael Beasley.
“I think the thing with Mike is that we have a great relationship,” says Hunter. “When I was Director of Player Personnel, I really worked close with him and really developed a lot of trust there. I think he understands that I care more about the person than I do the basketball player. I stress to him if Mike the person gets himself together, then Mike the basketball player will be great. I think he really and truly understands that and he’s trying to change the things he can.”
For now, the Suns remain a work in progress. New players now have newer roles to play and the new coaching staff is just trying to get a feel for what might be possible long-term.
“Our expectations are to get better every time we step on the floor,” says Hunter. “Every practice, every drill, every minute, that’s our expectation is to get better. No more, no less. If we keep doing that, eventually we’ll be where we want to be.”
Expect that journey to be a long one.
Long Wait Over For Warriors Fans?
One of the more impressive young teams in the Western Conference this season has been the Golden State Warriors. A multi-year rebuild has turned them into a team that balances efficient offense with solid defense, and as a result they’ve been among the top teams in the West to this point.
Lately they’ve been struggling just a bit, having lost six of their last ten games, and they look like a team that could use a little pick-me-up to help them get back on track heading into the All-Star break. As it turns out, that pick-me-up might be in the lineup tonight as the Warriors take on the Toronto Raptors.
Andrew Bogut has been out for most of the season following offseason ankle surgery. He tried to come back, but then opted to sit out again so he could try and get his ankle right. The initial prognosis was that he would be out for a week to ten days, but more than two months later the Warriors are still waiting for his ankle to get right.
Warriors starting center Andrew Bogut is aiming at coming back Monday night in Toronto. It will all depend on how he feels after pregame warmups. But multiple sources said Bogut is planning to give it ago.
At Monday’s shootaround at the Air Canada Centre, Bogut was wearing his practice jersey on the blue side — reserved for the starters. Plus there was a buzz about the center’s probable return.
The Warriors are being quiet on the matter and coach Mark Jackson maintains his stance that Bogut will come back when he is ready. Bogut doesn’t want to create a big to-do, one source said, and ramp up expectations. He and the Warriors have opted not discuss his recovery progress since news broke in late November that surgery on his left ankle in April included a microfracture procedure.
Bogut was expected to be the biggest acquisition for the Warriors, and his absence had many thinking the team might struggle until his return. Instead, the team performed quite well without him, which should spell good things for them as he works his way back to 100%. Bogut’s return could be the biggest story in the West before the trade deadline, as home court advantage in the first round is still very much up for grabs, and the Warriors could put some serious heat on Memphis in the race for the fourth seed.
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