After a 24-58 season, the New Jersey Nets will have to make some changes heading into 2012. This week, Nets are Scorching takes a closer look at some soon-to-be-available names.
Stats: 48 G, 48 GS, 25.7 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .511 FG%, .222 3P%, .583 FT%, 107 ORtg, 14.2 PER
Why Billy King Should Be Texting Him Right Now: I know you remember this guy. The #1 overall pick in 2000, Martin never lived up to those expectations but still became a solid player on both sides of the floor. I remember him as a player constantly bursting with intensity, for better or for worse – though I can’t place the exact date, I distinctly remember Martin being called for a technical foul after exploding at a referee for a call… only to find out later that the call actually went in his favor. Before trading him to Denver, Martin put up 18-9 and 17-10 seasons in New Jersey and established himself as a serious threat on two title-run teams.
In 2004 and on the heels of a new contract, the Nets traded him to the Denver Nuggets – interestingly enough, run by Kiki Vandeweghe at the time – for three first-round draft picks. While the picks ended up being mostly of little consequence, the Nets are generally considered to have won the trade, as Martin’s production dipped off and knee surgery soon followed.
Seven years later, Martin is 33 and has found his late-career niche: a tough, bruising big man who can give a very good team a solid 25-30 minutes per game. He’s not an explosive scorer – he never really was – but he’s learned how to reduce his role and had the second-best field goal percentage of his career this past year. He’s mostly been able to channel that intensity into more productive means, and it seems like he now understands his limits much better than ever before. He also has made his intentions clear: he wants to play for a winner above all else.
Really, the reason I think K-Mart would fit well in his old New Jersey uniform is that intensity factor. The Nets haven’t had anyone in a long time who other teams were really scared of. Someone who would stand up for his teammates at all costs. In the early 2000s, if Martin perceived a threat towards Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd, even guys like Lucious Harris, he’d be in someone’s face ready to throw down. I don’t condone fighting – far from it – but I do appreciate a player willing to eschew going through the motions and go to war. K-Mart’s one of those guys.
Don’t Risk The Fine: Kenyon Martin is 33 and has had microfracture surgeries on both knees. We could just leave it at that, really, but there’s more to it. As mentioned, K-Mart’s an intense person – and sometimes he brings an intensity that’s truly not needed or helpful. He’s no stranger to controversy, either – he’s been fined by the league multiple times for both on and off the court indiscretions, including one particularly profane tirade launched at Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
(To be fair, Cuban yelled at his mother. You never yell at Kenyon Martin’s mother.)
Martin will be 34 for most of next season, and while his production is steady it’s still not very good. He’s not a player you’d rely on in a series – heck, he was arguably the least effective starter on a team that was just bumped from the first round in five games. He’s not a major impact player, and hasn’t been for half a decade.
And The Winner Is… Avoid: Unless he’s the third or fourth signing of the offseason after the Nets have signed other pieces to play up front, the Nets probably shouldn’t bring back one of their popular players from a decade ago. Between the injury history and the age factor, I don’t have a lot of faith in Martin playing a substantial role, or even a substantial amount of time – he’s missed at least 10 games (and usually much more) in every season since his New Jersey days. I do like Kenyon Martin and what he brings to the table, but if the Nets look to him as a major cog of a championship team, I’d have to say that they should pass.