The Kevin Martin/James Harden comparisons aren't likely to end anytime soon, so no reason to fight it. In fact, here's another way K-Mart mimics Harden.
Things just go better for the Thunder when Martin is in the game.
Harden always brought a certain something to the court. Sometimes scoring, sometimes passing, sometimes just the feeling that all hands were on deck.
Now it's the same with Martin. The Thunder routed the Cavaliers 106-91 Sunday night downtown, and K-Mart entered the game only twice. Both times, the landscaped quickly improved for OKC.
The Cavs led 17-15 late first quarter when Martin replaced Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder outscored Cleveland 42-29 the rest of the half, with Martin on the court for all of it.
The Thunder led 67-60 late third quarter when Martin entered, this time for Serge Ibaka. OKC outscored Cleveland 37-25 over the next 14 minutes and gradually pulled away. That's a plus-25 on the scoreboard when Martin was on the floor.
“It's been a long time waiting to play on a team like this,” Martin said after what has become his typical Thunder game — 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, plus five rebounds and three assists. “Just a great group of guys from the organization to the players. Opportunities like this, you never know when you're going to get them so you have to take advantage.”
Martin said there's been no surprises. The Boomers have been exactly what they looked like to Martin from afar.
“From an outsider looking in, you could tell how tight they are and how great of a team,” K-Mart said. “So I wasn't expecting any surprises, and from the other side of the bench it is exactly what it is in this locker room.”
But the Harden trade gave the Thunder something a little unexpected. Martin is not the defensive sieve his reputation sported.
“He's got a lot of dog in him,” said Perk, who is not in the habit of tossing out unearned defensive platitudes. “On the defensive end … he's feisty. You think he's just a scorer, but he really gets down and dirty.
“He's definitely a good defender. Sometimes people need another look, just being around guys who are going to compete with ‘em and just be on a good team.”
Don't misunderstand. K-Mart is not Thabo Sefolosha and never will be. Martin is going to get burned and he's going to get lost. But in two weeks, Martin has shown his teammates he's not going to be a defensive liability.
“His defense is solid,” said Scotty Brooks, who admitted he wasn't sure how K-Mart would defend, coming off seasons in hopeless Sacramento and so-so Houston.
“It's not like he's giving up baskets and making it easy for opponents,” Brooks said. “He's making people work. He gets his hands on a lot of balls. His defense is much better than his reputation.”
And frankly, his offense might be, too. Martin's efficiency is in the Harden range, and Harden was world class in offensive efficiency.
Martin now is averaging 17.7 points a game on 50.7 percent shooting, including 53 percent from 3-point territory. Better yet, Martin is getting to the foul line; 40 times in seven games, a 5.7 per-game average. That was a Harden strength, and he averaged 6.0 last season.
The Thunder still misses Harden. The chemistry hasn't been replaced, and who knows if it ever will?
But this much we know already. This basketball team does mighty fine with Martin on the floor.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.