He only played 17 minutes and fouled out in that short span, but New York Knicks’ forward Kenyon Martin found a way to win his teammates and Knicks’ fans over in Thursday’s 95-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the middle of his second 10-day contract and only the second time that he has gotten off the bench, you wouldn’t think that his stat line would have drawn rave reviews, but that is exactly what happened thanks to the defensive effort K-Mat gave, often having to guard the NBA’s leading scorer Kevin Durant.
“Kenyon was huge for us,” coach Mike Woodson told NJ.com’s Alex Raskin. “He gave us a big lift, a guy who hasn’t played much for us. I know I can play him and he can defend a few positions.”
Martin typically would be used to guard in the post because of his toughness, but he was used often to guard Durant on the perimeter and while KD still finished with 34 points, when Martin was checking him he found scoring to be difficult through stretches thanks to the tenacity and toughness that Martin brought to the table.
K-Mart hasn’t played any meaningful minutes since first signing his 10-day contract, which made it a bit surprising that Woodson used his for a 13-minute stretch on one of the game’s best scorers.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen today,” Martin told Raskin. “I was ready. That’s the way I’ve been playing, ever since I picked up a basketball. Just showing them that I still got it–especially on the defensive end. That aint going nowhere.”
Overall his line wasn’t very impressive, scoring four points and grabbing one rebound, but what he brought at the defensive end certainly won his teammates over.
“He played great defensively for us,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “He provides the leadership on the defensive end.”
“I was glad to see him out there,” center Tyson Chandler also told Raskin. “Durant is a tough matchup for anybody. He brings great energy on both ends.”
“He brings a bruiser,” Raymond Felton added to Raskin. “He can guard one through five. At the same time, when we get knocked on the floor, or put in the ground, you know that he’s going to do it to the other team. It’s always good to have a guy like that.”
Rarely do you find a player who impacts his teammates in such a positive fashion playing only 17 minutes in a loss, but that’s exactly what Martin was able to accomplish.
He’s an old-school player, which is why the fans took to him immediately, but if Martin can do in the future what he did at the defensive end on Thursday, he will become an even bigger favorite both among the fans and his teammates.
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