Asik was a security blanket that allowed the 6-foot-7, 185-pound Martin to tighten up his defense this preseason. Martin has even more defensive backup with the Thunder in Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet.
“One thing I made a conscious effort to do this offseason was to go back to being a solid defender,” Martin said. “I'm not going to be a lockdown defender like Thabo or anything, but just being solid and playing within the team concept. This season I was back to normal, I was feeling great. Here, you've got two great post defenders (in the starting lineup), so that just helps.”
It behooves Martin to embrace defense, because it's not an option at OKC.
“We take pride in defense, there's no question,” said Brooks, beginning yet another rant on the topic. “We take pride in team defense. We take pride in individual defense. That's something where we work with all of our players. We have some really good defensive anchors … but our perimeter guys we expect a level of defense out of them. All the guys are going to have to continue to improve in that area.
“We are a defensive team first, even though Kevin does bring us some good offense.”
To suggest Martin struggles with the pick-and-roll is ludicrous, given his remarkable offensive efficiency. Plus, he has two premier screeners in Perkins and Collison, perhaps the two players Harden will miss most with the Rockets.
“He definitely will be a big part of our pick-and-roll game,” said Brooks, who coached Martin during his breakout season with the Sacramento Kings in 2006-07. “He's a great give-and-go guy. He just knows how to play. He knows how to space. He knows when to get out of the way. He knows how to cut and he gets to the free-throw line at a very high rate.”