Kevin Martin played so well so early after he joined the Thunder, perhaps there was nowhere to go but down.
When James Harden turned down the Thunder's extension offer, reportedly worth $53 million for four years, he summarily was sent to the Houston Rockets in a nine-player trade just five days before OKC's 2012-13 season opener.
The primary components of the deal were Harden and Martin, who had the unenviable task of replacing the near-unanimous choice as NBA Sixth Man of the Year in Harden.
In 2011-12, Harden averaged 31.4 minutes, 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 49.1 percent from the field, 39.0 percent from 3-point range and 84.6 percent from the line.
In Martin's first month with OKC, he averaged 29.9 minutes, 15.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 46.2 percent from the field, 48.8 percent from 3-point range and 93.4 percent from the line in November.
Though the manner in which he accumulated his numbers was not the same as the powerful/penetrating/playmaking Harden, Martin's productivity essentially was a push with Harden's.
Particularly impressive was Martin did this while learning on the fly, having never played the role of sixth man after leading his team in scoring the previous six seasons with Sacramento and Houston.
Martin's early excellence had quickly taken away the sting of losing Harden.
However, Martin's scoring and consistency dipped each month thereafter, and his regular-season totals finished at 27.7 minutes, 14.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 45.0 percent from the field, 42.6 percent on 3-pointers and 89.0 percent at the line.
“I knew exactly what my role was going to be,” Martin said. “I knew I was going to go from being the first option to being the third option. I was going to have to embrace it, and that's what I did. I came in here and just trying to be a positive influence with what they had already started to create around here and just help the team in any form I can.”
From the outset, Martin essentially was in a Catch-22 situation.
Had his productivity remained on par with Harden's, the Thunder wouldn't have been able to afford to keep the 30-year-old Martin, who earned $12.4 million this season and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Oddly enough, when OKC's season abruptly finished by losing 4-1 to Memphis in the second round of the playoffs, Martin was left thirsting for more playing days with the Thunder.
“Yes, definitely that's a chapter that's unfinished,” Martin said.
Though Martin did not share specific salary numbers during his exit interview with the media, he did admit his decision won't hinge solely on signing with the highest bidder.
“I'm at a point in my career where I don't need to get what I can get (monetarily),” Martin said. “It's more about happiness, and looking back on this experience, I've been on both sides of the fence — being on a championship-caliber team and being on a team trying to make it into the playoffs — so I have a vision of what I want my career to be, and the main thing is happiness and being a part of something special.
“This is a place I'd love to be. Just had a great talk with Sam (Presti) and Scott (Brooks) that I'll keep between us three right now. It's going into a territory I've never been in, being an unrestricted free agent. I'm going to have some options out there, so I just have to see how the process plays out.”