Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin is two days away from his seventh career playoff game. Fellow reserve guard Derek Fisher, the NBA's active leader, is about to make his 230th postseason appearance.
On a roster that is the fourth-youngest in league history to have a 60-win season, the 30-year-old Martin ranks ninth on the team in playoff games played.
When OKC posted a 107-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 17, Martin was asked during a post-game interview if the crazed atmosphere at Chesapeake Energy Arena reminded him of a postseason game.
“How the heck would I know?” the affable Martin said, breaking into a smile. “You're asking the wrong guy.”
For the past six years, Martin had performed his own rather depressing ritual the morning after the regular-season finale.
“I'd be heading to the airport around 4 a.m., (thinking) I can't wait to get back to Ohio,” said Martin, a native of Zanesville. “So a lot's changed.”
The last time Martin appeared in a playoff game was May 6, 2006. He was a second-year shooting guard for the Sacramento Kings, who were eliminated 4-2 in the opening round by the San Antonio Spurs.
Martin's painful seven-year postseason dry spell will end Sunday at 8:30 p.m. when the No 1-seeded Thunder (60-22) face No. 8-seeded Houston (45-37) at The Peake in Game 1 of an opening-round best-of-7 series.
Adding to Martin's potential anxiety is the fact he'll face the team from whence he came in a blockbuster trade on Oct. 27, just five days before the Thunder's 2012-13 season opener.
“We knew this was going to be the series back in October,” Martin playfully told reporters on Thursday. “I mean, how else would it pan out?”
Martin seemed genuinely relaxed as he spoke, insisting he was neither nervous nor anxious with the task that awaits.
“Not at all,” Martin said.
The deal became known simply as the “James Harden Trade,” ignoring that eight other players also were involved. Former Thunder teammates Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward accompanied Harden to Houston in exchange for Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and one second-round pick.
All eyes have since been riveted on Harden, a bearded southpaw guard who averaged 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals en route to becoming a first-time All-Star the same year the event was held in his new hometown.
Meanwhile, Martin quietly accepted his new role, a humbling transformation that hijacked him from being his team's leading scorer for sixth straight seasons to suddenly becoming a middle-aged reserve on a team oozing with young, explosive talent.
In terms of offensive production, the Harden-Martin swap wasn't all that far from being a wash.
Harden averaged 16.8 points in 31.4 minutes per game last season with OKC, shooting 49.1 percent from the field, 39.0 percent from 3-point range and 84.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Martin averaged 14.0 points in 27.7 minutes per game this season with OKC, shooting 45.0 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from 3-point range and 89.0 percent from the free-throw line.
The manner in which each player amassed these numbers was completely dissimilar, however.
Harden is a deft playmaker off the pick-and-roll while constantly being in attack mode.
Martin is awkwardly crafty, somehow getting shots off with defenders seemingly inches away from his face, and also capable of drawing contact on penetrating moves.
It was no easy feat replacing Harden, who was a near-unanimous selection as Sixth Man of the Year last season.
“I think he did well,” Thunder veteran forward Nick Collison said of Martin. “It's a tough situation. He's playing a different role than he's played throughout his career. … When you're in more of a limited role (as a reserve), you have to be more efficient. He's great at that. He's one of those guys where you can put him in and he's going to have confidence to take shots and try to score. And that's what we need him to do, especially with that second group. We need him to be aggressive.”
Martin's future with the Thunder is uncertain. He becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
When asked if being traded to a title contender turned out to be even better than he expected, Martin paused and smiled.
“Thinking back, there's so many emotions,” the soft-spoken Martin said in slightly more than a whisper. “I knew we were going to be in the playoffs and have great runs throughout the entire year, but I think overall just being in that locker room is something special.
“You've got to feel blessed to be in these kinds of situations. I've been thankful all the way back to October, to come to such a great organization and the way the players accepted me here. These 82 games went quick, and I don't want it to end.”