Kevin Martin is about to be a Minnesota Timberwolf, and though I knew that or something like it was coming, it makes me sad. I liked Circle K. I liked him a lot.
Martin arrived in Boomtown last October, fresh off the James Harden, and my impression of him was a one-dimensional player who could shoot and not do much else. Turns out, Martin wasn’t as bad a defensive player as I’d been led to believe, though he wasn’t very good, but he was a better offensive player than I expected. Maybe not a James Harden, but incredibly efficient. A guy who could shoot 3-pointers and draw fouls, which is a nifty combination when you can find it.
Martin was in a tough spot, trying to replace Harden, and handled it with grace. Even when his teammates lost their composure – remember the finger-pointing after the Christmas game breakdown at Miami – Martin stayed poised.
Also, Martin was fun to talk to. He wasn’t a fantastic quote or anything, but he was honest. Didn’t give canned answers. Didn’t take offense to questions about a shooting slump or a defeat. Just a pro. That’s what Kevin Martin is.
We knew Martin was a goner after last season. The Thunder would have loved to have him back but just couldn’t afford him. OKC isn’t the Nets. Money is an object. So when Minnesota offered a four-year, $28-million contract, Martin had to take it. The Thunder was in no position to offer him more than $2 million per season. You can read our story here.
But Martin says he will remember Oklahoma City. In his exit interview in May, Martin talked about how bright this season shined for him, after a career of mostly inconsequential games for Sacramento and Houston.
“It was great, man,” Martin said. “When I reflect on everything, it ended too soon. That’s what I want to say about the whole experience. We set ourselves up to be Western Conference champions this year. Heading into the playoffs we were playing such great basketball and then we have a fluke injury. That’s part of sports, but you never want to think it’s going to happen to you or your team. I feel like that’s how our season will be looked at now. It’s more like a ‘what if’ season.”
We asked Martin what he learned about the Thunder and its players that he didn’t know before.
“From the outside looking in, I knew it was a great place,” Martin said. “But actually when I got here, it turned out to be a special place, with how the fans are with the players, how the teammates were with one another, how the coaches went about their business on the court; for the players, making sure we had everything in front of us to be successful. That’s something I learned not to take for granted because I’ve never been in a situation like this. All in all, it was quite enjoyable.”
We asked Martin what he’d be willing to play for.
“This is a place I’d love to be,” Martin said. “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.
“I’m at a point in my career where I don’t need to get what I can get. 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.”
Minnesota is not anything special, though the Timberwolves should be improved. But let’s cut Martin some slack. He’s 30 years old. He’s still got some prime earning years.
The Thunder will miss Martin. I will miss Martin. And Martin will miss OKC.