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

He never quite seems totally comfortable with that.

“I thought K-Mart did a great job,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks countered. “He came in with a role that he wasn't familiar with. I can't remember the last time he came off the bench. But he came in and did a good job for us.”

Durant said: “I love Kevin Martin. I love everything he stands for. I love his work ethic.”

The admiration is mutual.

“It's been such a good ride,” Martin said, “and I've met some incredible people in these past six months, incredible teammates. I think I would love to have this opportunity again.”

But will it happen?

Martin was paid $12.4 million this season, the final year of his first big contract in the league. No way the Thunder could realistically offer him even half that.

And even that might be too much of a stretch.

Without Martin, the team's payroll next season is about $68 million, and that doesn't include any draft picks that would come this summer. Even if the Thunder only signs the No. 12 draft pick that it has, that salary alone would run $2 million and would push the team right to the luxury-tax line.

There will be other teams willing to give him much more than the Thunder will.

“I'm at a point in my career where I don't need to get what I can get,” Martin said. “It's more about happiness. 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.

“The main thing is happiness and being a part of something special.”

That sounds like Martin is willing to take a pay cut and remain in Oklahoma City. But that long silence before he answered the question of how much he'd be willing stay and play for felt like a sign that either he's not hellbent on returning or the Thunder's not giving him positive vibes.

Maybe Martin will be back in Thunder blue next season. Anything's possible in free agency. But don't be surprised to see K-Mart opening in another city.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

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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