Kevin Martin Sr. sends his son encouraging text messages all the time.
Keep your head up.
Just keep shooting.
But last Wednesday night with Thunder guard Kevin Martin mired in one of the worst games of his basketball career — a 1-of-10 night in a potential closeout playoff game at home — his dad scrapped routine.
“I told him I couldn't take no more and I was going to bed,” Martin Sr. said, laughing. “I sent that to him in the third quarter.”
To be fair, Martin Sr. had to get up for work the next morning at 4:30 a.m. Still, it's safe to say he won't be heading to bed early again any time soon.
His son has become must-see TV.
On an afternoon when Oklahoma City beat Memphis 93-91 in the first game of this Western Conference playoff series, Martin played like the guy that the Thunder thought it was trading for last fall. He scored 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He hit threes. He made drives. He got to the free-throw line.
“I'm very happy that he came in and had a good game offensively,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
He should be doing cartwheels.
For the boys in blue to have any chance in this series against the Grizzlies and their stingy defense, Martin has got to be effective on the offensive end. He's got to shoot and score and do exactly what he did Sunday. Otherwise, the Grizzlies can focus on Kevin Durant and make the Thunder superstar's life miserable.
From that last series against the Rockets, we know how hard that can be to watch. And the Rockets weren't even all that good defensively.
Martin is key to this series.
“He's got confidence,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “We have to be more focused and build a scheme around what we're going to have to do with him.”
To think, Martin was nearly left for dead a few days ago.
After that 1-for-10 game against Houston, it looked like his confidence was shot. He was so devastated by his performance that he couldn't even look his teammates in the eye for the next couple days. That night could've crippled Martin for the rest of the playoffs.
But it didn't.
First of all, Martin is playing like he used to play. Before coming to Oklahoma City, he was the primary scoring option for his team. Whether in Sacramento or Houston, he had to carry the scoring load, so he would do whatever it took to get points.
Slash. Drive. Create.
Since joining the Thunder, he's been tasked with being more of a spot-up shooter, especially when he's on the floor with Durant and Russell Westbrook. But with Westbrook out for the rest of the playoffs, Martin has gone back to his old ways, and it is working marvelously.
“Once you catch the ball, just be aggressive,” Martin said of his mindset. “Not only back door ‘em, but just be a threat when you do have the ball in your hands.”
In that 1-for-10 game against the Rockets, Martin had just two shot attempts in the paint.
Sunday afternoon, six of his 14 attempts were.
“He's back to himself,” Martin's dad said. “He's back to slashing, going to the hole, getting to the foul line. That's what he built his career on. I think he's getting more comfortable by going back to his old style of playing and getting out of that corner.”
While going back to his old style has helped Martin resurrect his game in these playoffs, so has his mental tenacity.
Martin received support from his teammates and even members of the Thunder front office staff. But at the end of the day, he had to stay strong between the ears. He had to will himself out of the abyss.
“He went through them stretches before. College. Sacramento. Houston,” his dad said. “He just knows he's a scorer. He tells himself that everyone has these games. Just keep shooting, and it'll come back to you.”
And it has.
That's made for one proud papa.
“Pleased to say the least,” Kevin Sr. said after watching the game in person Sunday afternoon. “Very pleased.”
Safe to say everyone in the Thunder looker room feels the same way.