Thunder coach Scott Brooks continues to insist the evolution of Kevin Martin as the team's sixth man remains a work in progress.
After yet another breathtaking performance from Martin, exactly how much more progress should be expected?
In a 107-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, Martin scored 20 points while shooting 7 for 10 from the field, 3 for 5 from 3-point range, 3 for 3 from the free-throw line and committed just one turnover in 32 minutes of play.
Martin has been a key component to OKC jumping out to a 20-4 start and extending its winning streak to 11.
All this has transpired despite Martin being with his new teammates just 7½ weeks since the Thunder obtained him in an Oct. 27 trade for reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden.
Martin entered with 5:21 left in the first quarter against the Spurs and promptly scored eight points, shooting 3 for 3 from the field while nailing two 3-pointers.
He scored 13 points in 17 first-half minutes.
When the Spurs had cut an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in half with 5½ minutes to play (93-84), it was Martin's 3-pointer from the left wing that stopped the bleeding and got the Thunder's lead back to double-digits for good.
“Kevin's been terrific,” Brooks said afterward. “He's bought in to what we do.”
And in the process, Martin continues to become “everybody's friend.”
“When you have a guy who does not demand the basketball and he can still score on a low numbers of shots, he's going to be everybody's friend,” Brooks explained.
No argument from Martin.
“I like to be my point guard's best friend,” Martin said. “I don't like to take the ball out of my point guard's hands and shoot 20 times a game, especially a talented point guard that we have here in Russell (Westbrook). He deserves the ball in his hands every chance he gets.”
Brooks has been so pleased with Martin's progress, he even complimented Martin's defense, for which he often had been maligned before arriving in OKC.
“When you're a two-way player, you give yourself a chance,” Brooks said. “Kevin's been good on defense. He hasn't been known for that, but he's been very solid defensively. Offensively, he's very efficient.”
Martin smiled, but wasn't buying it, however.
“I think he's fooling you a little bit,” Martin said of Brooks.
Before Monday's game, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich described the Thunder's transition from Harden to Martin as follows: “Obviously, it's fit pretty seamlessly. They've done a great job fitting him (Martin) into the program. So now they're off to the races and doing a great job.”
As he often does, Martin took a topic directed specifically at him and re-directed the focus toward his team. He turned “he” into “we.”
“We don't want to stop here,” Martin said. “We just want to keep getting better.
“I think it's going to be a work in progress until the playoffs. As a team, we're nowhere near our ceiling of where we want to be. I think over time, we'll get better offensively and defensively and just knowing each other. It's only been five or six weeks. In the NBA, you can't get familiar with each other in that short of a time.”