After life as a leading man on a loser, Martin has found solace in playing a supportive role on a winner.
“We're focused on getting back to the championship and hopefully winning it,” Martin said. “That's what puts a smile on my face every morning.”
Martin still remembers his first game against the Kings. Today, he says he didn't return seeking to prove a point.
“They knew I could play,” he said. “I just went in and did what I did best, score the ball.”
“I scored pretty good that night,” he added, “so it was kind of fun.”
Martin was being nice. He killed the Kings. He scored 39 points on April 12, 2010. He made 11 of 20 shots and went 16-for-16 from the free-throw line while playing 40 minutes in a 117-107 Rockets win.
“That was emotional because that was the first place I played at and I knew how the fans loved me there,” Martin said. “They didn't want to see me go and I didn't necessarily want to go. So I think the first time when you go back after being traded, that's the toughest one.”
Martin now can talk freely about all the things Harden can't, or won't, fess up to — at least not before the game. If Harden has any regrets, he isn't likely to voice them. This is the path he chose.
“I'm pretty sure he's happy to be there. He's in a good situation,” said Russell Westbrook. “He has the green light over there. He plays freely, and he's able to do basically what he wants.”
Prior to Tuesday's game against Toronto, though, the Rockets were just 6-7, with six games against Western Conference heavyweights looming.
Tough times certainly could be ahead.
Still, Harden entered Tuesday's game tied four fourth in the league in scoring with LeBron James at 25.2 points per game.
It's a double life that Martin is glad he left behind, but one he can't be mad at Harden for embracing.
“With the opportunities we get,” Martin said, “we're both doing great things so congrats to him.”