Kevin Martin admitted to being nervous prior to tip-off Thursday night.
The basketball didn't bother him. This, as he said, was a different type of nervous.
It was his debut game as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the recently-acquired shooting guard just didn't want to mess anything up.
“I've been the man the past eight years on my team,” Martin said. “I'm coming into a system where I don't have to play that role anymore, which I'm very OK with. First and foremost, I just didn't want them thinking I was coming in here trying to be that guy. It's just about doing whatever I can do to win, and I think they respect that.”
While former Thunder sixth man James Harden is averaging a league-leading 41 points through two games, the veteran Oklahoma City acquired from Houston in exchanged for him just wants to fit in.
Through two games, Martin has done just that.
Martin has stepped in and immediately supplied similar instant offense off the bench as Harden did. Going into Sunday's game against Atlanta, Martin is third on the Thunder in scoring, averaging 17 points while ranking third in assists with 3.5 per game.
“And he's doing it on the fly,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We've definitely given him a speedy course of what we do and how we like to do it. But we have a good group of guys that are willing to show him and teach him and expedite that learning curve. But he knows how to play and he does a lot of good things that you can use and we do use in our offense.”
Watching Martin work in his first two games, the first thing that stands out is his patience. He's never in a rush to do anything. His playing style is sort of similar to Harden in that way. It's an attack powered by brains rather than awesome athleticism.
The Thunder has taken advantage of Martin's basketball IQ in several ways throughout each of its first two games. He's been allowed to orchestrate the offense, search for scoring opportunities by moving without the ball and spotting up beyond the arc. Martin's knack for drawing fouls also has carried over, as he has attempted 10 free throws, all makes, in his first two games.
“He sets up his man as well as anybody we have on our team,” Brooks said.
Despite possessing an unorthodox form, Martin already has shown how he can help the team with his perimeter shooting. He's made six of his first nine 3-pointers and provided the pivotal floor spacing that allows Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant more room to attack on drives or post ups.
A common question since last week's trade has been how the Thunder's chemistry would be impacted by the loss of one of its three stars. But it's becoming clear that there hasn't been much of a drop off.
Martin has worked well early on with Durant and Nick Collison in particular on a two-man game. While not yet as crisp as the one Harden shared with Collison, there's obvious potential there. In each of the first two games, Martin made sharp cuts while reading and reacting to defenses and caught pinpoint passes from Durant and Collison. You can already see a backdoor play with Martin becoming a staple seen at least once a game.
“He's one of the best at cutting backdoor because his first step is as quick as anybody's in this league,” Brooks said. “And we want to utilize some of his strengths that he's shown in the past. When you play against a guy for many years, you know him. You see it and you talk about it in your scouting reports. And you get frustrated when he does get away with what he does very well. It's good to see that he's doing the same things that we got frustrated with him doing against us for many years.”
Martin knows it'll take time to iron out the wrinkles.
“It's just going to be like a mini-training camp for us this month,” he said.
But Martin pointed to Miami as an example of how long to expect the Thunder to figure it all out. The Heat, in its first season with LeBron James, got off to a slow start but soon came together and became a powerhouse.
“I feel like with the team that we have and guys that have been through a lot in this league, it could click in a week, two weeks, a month, you never know,” Martin said. “You kind of saw how Miami was. I think they started 8-9 and then they went to Cleveland and it just clicked for them from there.
“So we're just waiting for that one moment where everybody knows what to expect, and we'll just go out every night and compete until then.”