New York Knicks’ fans around the city breathed a communal sigh of relief when they heard that Kenyon Martin was finally resigned after the waiting game that took place since the start of free agency. Now the question arises, what will he bring to the team, as he’s a year older and will have to play an 82-game season?
Last season, many, including now head coach of the Nets, Jason Kidd, credited Martin with saving the Knicks’ season. He brought toughness, defense, and energy, which were all things seriously missing at some points last season. However, he had sat out 64 games, which may have allowed him to give his all for the team, but this year won’t be like that. Can he replicate his success?
K-Mart won’t be asked to start, so that should make it easier for him to stay healthy while averaging roughly 20-25 minutes per game. Last season, we saw him at both forward spots and center, but the front court looks very different today. With the additions of Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani, there is more room for Martin at backup center. While he has played center before, at 6-9 he is undersized, which would force him to battle with bigger players that could tire him out and/or get him injured. The Knicks were hurt last year by injuries to their elderly big men (Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas), so this year it’s crucial that players stay healthy.
While Martin has never been known for his offense, this year he will have even less responsiblity on that side of the floor due to the addition of Andrea Bargnani, who hopefully will return to form as an excellent scoring forward. This could allow Martin to focus on setting screens, but more importantly reserve his energy for the defensive side of the floor where he is needed most.
His statistics in the 18 games he played during the regular season last year were very impressive: 7.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, .9 BPG, and .9 SPG. If Martin could continue playing that way, he will prove to have been an amazing signing, and it would bode well for the Knicks. One of the biggest weaknesses of the team, even with Martin, was shot blocking, so if he can continue to swat shots like last season it would be a major plus.
The Knicks also need Martin as a leader. He spoke last year about people having the wrong impression of him and wanting to change that, and he must continue to do so this season. With the absense of Kidd, Wallace, and Thomas, the Knicks need veteran leadership on and off the court especially with people like J.R. Smith on the team. Rookies Tim Hardaway Jr. and C.J. Leslie will also benefit from the wealth of knowledge Martin has earned during his THIRTEEN seasons in the league.
There are two scenarios for how this season could turn out for K-Mart (Okay, probably more than two, but humor me): The first is that he continues his excellent play from last season, helping to anchor the team’s defense alongside Tyson Chandler, and avoiding any major injuries or time out. The second, and all too familiar for Knicks’ fans, is that he gets injured, and limps his way through the season without providing much support. Martin is one of the tougher guys in this league, and if I had to bet on him, I would take him showing up this season in an attempt to finally get his ring after those close calls with the New Jersey Nets nearly ten years ago.