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Thunder has to set the table for Kevin Martin

OKC's new sixth man thrives when he's set up by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. As evidence, Martin scored 27 points against the Hornets.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 17, 2012

Kevin Martin plopped down in a plush black leather courtside seat at the end of his team's morning shoot-around on Friday and tried his best to forget his most disappointing display to date in a Thunder uniform.

He wanted to chalk up his performance in Wednesday's home loss to Memphis as an anomaly, a one-game glitch in the system, a system that has seen plenty of success this season. In reality, the questions that had made their way to Martin were both fair and timely.

Martin's disappearing act Wednesday was the culmination of a three-game downward trend in which his shot attempts saw an incremental decline. More importantly, following that 10-point defeat to the Grizzlies, Martin's role on the team, and exactly how the Thunder intends to maximize it, no longer could be ignored.

It took a seven-point output by the Thunder's second most efficient scorer to highlight what was quickly developing into a potential issue — Oklahoma City, despite receiving several spectacular scoring efforts from its new sixth man, had yet to fully integrate Martin as its third scoring option.

Largely behind a blistering start shooting the ball, Martin has averaged 17.1 points through 10 games. He's made 48 percent of his shots from the floor, including 51 percent from 3-point range and 94.5 percent from the foul line. All three are currently career-best clips, which underscores how hot Martin has been more than illustrating how well the Thunder has utilized him.

But in Wednesday's loss, those warts surfaced for even untrained eyes to see, as Martin played 33 minutes of mostly invisible basketball. In a nutshell, his night was defined by drifting around the perimeter, waiting on passes that never came. He took a season-low four shot attempts, and nobody seemed to have an answer as to why.

What's long been clear, however, is that Martin is still adjusting to being the third option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It's natural, of course, seeing as how we're just 10 games into a season altered by the trade that brought Martin to town. But the goal, which will be a vital one to the Thunder's championship hopes, is to see better chemistry as the games go on.

“Our whole thing for him is to just be aggressive,” Durant said. “This is a different role for him. He's not used to coming off the bench and playing behind two guys like Russell and myself that can score the ball like he can. He's used to being the main guy, so this is a little different for him.”

The truth is this is all different for Durant and Westbrook, too. As much as Martin is acclimating himself to them, Durant and Westbrook are adjusting to Martin. Never before has the Thunder's All-Star duo played alongside a weapon like Martin, who works best off the ball. James Harden could command the ball, call his own number and dominate a game. With Martin, Durant and Westbrook must make it a point to keep him on their radars.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Thunder vs. Golden State

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37/HD 722, DirecTV 679, Dish 416, U-Verse 754/HD 1754)

Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640

Three things to know

* The Thunder went 3-0 against the Warriors last season and has won six straight overall against them.

* Golden State is coming off a 106-98 victory at Minnesota, where it outscored Wolves 58-22 in the paint.

* This is OKC's third straight Sunday home game. The Thunder has previously lost to Atlanta and beat Cleveland.


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