2003-2004 Stats: 65 GP, 34.6 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 48.8 FG%, 28.0 3P%, 68.4 FT%
2003-2004 Advanced: 52.8 TS%, 49.2 eFG%, 18.7 PER, 99 ORtg, 93 DRtg, 6.7 WS
All-Star Team? Yes
Team: 47-35, lost in second round to Detroit Pistons (4-3)
Kenyon Martin used to be my favorite Nets player. It’s not hard to see why: the ferocity with which he played, the way he so badly wanted to hurt the rim on every dunk attempt, the technicals, smacking the backboard after dunks, the defense, the flagrant fouls, the tattoos, the yelling, the athleticism, pumping up the crowd, etc.
You get the point.
The 2003-2004 was probably the best of Martin’s 14-year, up-and-down NBA career. It’s no surprise that season ranks as one of the best seasons in Nets history for a power forward. Though the numbers aren’t particularly eye-popping, K-Mart’s impact went beyond the numbers.
Even with a mid-season coaching change from Byron Scott to Lawrence Frank, the Nets of 03′-04′ finished the season ranked 4th in defensive efficiency, allowing 95.2 points per 100 possessions. Likely the biggest reason for that defensive success was the prowess of Martin.
Not only did he average 1.5 steals per game and 1.3 blocks per game while holding a personal DefRtg of 93.3 for that season, Martin was one of the most intimidating players to ever wear a Nets uniform. It seemed like Martin would receive a multitude of fouls every night be it a personal, technical, or flagrant foul (he led the team with 3.5 personal fouls per game that season). His ability to scare away players from attacking the rim allowed for such great success on the defensive end.
One of the main knocks on K-Mart is that his point guard — Jason Kidd — made him look a lot better than he actually was. While this is true in some regard, the reality is that the Nets wouldn’t have won eight playoff series’ in three seasons without the energy and passion that Martin brought every time he stepped on the court.
The combination of Kidd and Martin and the refined chemistry between them allowed the Nets to dominate the NBA in the three seasons that they played together.
Martin also gave the Nets something that has been lacking ever since his departure to Denver in the summer of 2004: toughness. In fact, the Nets average Defensive Rating during Martin’s four seasons as a Net was 100.3. Since his departure in 2004, their average has been 107.7.
Martin has been a controversial player throughout his career but he, along with captain Kidd, not only helped make the Nets fun and relevant during the early 2000’s, but also made them into true title contenders.
Martin’s final season with the Nets in 2003-2004 capped off what was an impactful career with the Nets that helped turn many people — including myself — into true, die-hard Nets fans with his barbaric play and savage attacks on innocent rims around the country.
Next: Buck Williams