Several factors come into play on whether Kevin Martin returns to Thunder

The Thunder guard becomes an unrestricted free agent later this summer, but because of the high-dollar salaries it already has, Oklahoma City wouldn't be able to offer him the kind of money he's been making.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 17, 2013

Kevin Martin paused to consider the question for a moment.

A long moment.

The Thunder guard becomes an unrestricted free agent later this summer, but because of the high-dollar salaries it already has, Oklahoma City wouldn't be able to offer him the kind of money he's been making.

So, how much would he be willing to stay and play for?

“I think ... ” Martin said, then stopped.

Three seconds passed, then four, then five.

“This is a place I'd love to be,” he said finally. “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.”

As the Thunder heads into an offseason with much less uncertainty than it had a year ago — the James Harden negotiations loomed then — the biggest personnel question is Martin.

Will the Thunder re-sign him?

Even though Martin said many of the right things when asked about his future Thursday, that long pause could be a sign he won't be returning.

For starters, Reggie Jackson has emerged as a great first option off the bench. When these playoffs began, we weren't sure how he would perform in a backup role. Then Russell Westbrook got hurt, and we got to see him perform in a pressure cooker.

The verdict?

Rock solid.

He averaged 15.3 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor. He dished out 3.7 assists a game while committing 2.0 turnovers. He got to the basket. He facilitated the offense. Jackson showed himself capable in the toughest of situations.

No reason to think he couldn't be the first man off the bench next season. And hey, put his quickness on the floor with Westbrook some, and it could really be fun.

What Jackson showed these past few weeks — in addition to the D-League promise displayed by sharpshooting rookie Jeremy Lamb — could make Martin the odd man out.

Martin played well this season, averaging 14.0 points a game. But that was his lowest scoring average since his second season in the NBA. Five of the last six seasons, he averaged over 20 points a game.

No doubt his role changed when he was traded before the season to Oklahoma City, where he went from his team's first scoring option to its third. His game changed because of that, especially when he was on the floor with Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Martin was expected to be more of a spot-up shooter and less of a freelancer. Less drives to the basket. Less creating his own shot.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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