Posted Oct 17, 2012 10:04 AM
HOUSTON -- There was a time since the end of last season when Kevin Martin felt like the only double-wide in the trailer park that didn't get blown away by the twister.
Another day, another teammate gone by way of a trade or free agency or amnesty.
"It all happened so fast," he said. "It was kind of hard to get hold of what was going on."
So Martin reached out to grasp the only thing that he knew could bring him stability and contentment -- working on his game.
"I had a summer where it was good to get away from playing and just concentrating on working out, getting myself back into great physical shape and getting into a good frame of mind," he said. "My trainer, David Thorpe, sat me down and we talked about things that were related to my body, my conditioning. But it was also a time to, well, clear my head of some things."
The clutter had begun to pile up last December when Martin was included as part of the package the Rockets were willing to send to New Orleans in the controversial Chris Paul trade that was vetoed by commissioner David Stern. The brief post-lockout training camp saw him play poorly, he steadily was written out of the offensive picture, became unhappy with first-year coach Kevin McHale and may or may not have gone so far as asked for a trade.
"Everybody in the NBA at one time or another goes through mixed emotions," said the 6-foot-7 guard. "Players go through it, coaches go through it, entire teams go through it. If some guy ever tells you that they spent their entire NBA career in exactly the same frame of mind, they're just lying to you. I think...I might...I could have...I don't know...I was all over the place.
"What I can say now is that I'm back physically and mentally and ready for whatever challenges might be asked of me, any burdens that might by placed on my shoulders."
At 29, Martin's role as a highly efficient scorer will be the same. But now he'll be asked to play it on a roster that has been razed since the Rockets missed out on a playoff berth by a single game last season. Now he is the second-oldest player on the team, one of only three on the 18-man training camp roster who has more than two years of NBA experience.
"We're in a rebuilding mode, starting over," Martin said. "It's hard at this point in my career. I'm not gonna sit here and lie. These are the prime years of my career and you'd like to be going for the playoffs, competing for a championship.
"But I've always been a professional and blessed that I'm playing in the NBA and that comes first and foremost. I'm a member of the Houston Rockets right now and I'm feeling great. I just gotta try to lead these guys and show them how the NBA really works. I was set with a good example from guys like Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson in Sacramento. But when they were doing it for me they were 35, 36 years old and at the end of their careers. So for me doing it at 29, it's a little bit unexpected. But I'm enjoying it."
Martin said he is also enjoying a restored relationship with McHale, who has been singing his praises through camp and preseason schedule.
"I really think a lot of our problem from last season had to do with the way the lockout ended so fast and everything was in a hurry," Martin said.
"We came in last year with pretty much a veteran squad with a new staff. We did things a certain way since I'd been here and we didn't really get to adjust to a new coaching staff. So it was easy to get off track. Some players wanted it and some didn't."
Martin's scoring average of 17.1 was his lowest since his second season in the NBA and more than six a game lower than the 2010-11 season. McHale often didn't like his defense and a lack of hustle and sat him on the bench sometimes in the fourth quarter. Martin says the problems with his play all stemmed from a strained right shoulder injury that began in February.
"We've sat down, Kevin and me, we've talked and everything is good," Martin said. "I understand that everything he's done is because he wants me to be a better player, an all-around player. You know what? I think I am a better player now because of last year and I'm ready to give that to the Rockets."
But that the question is for how long? Martin's expiring $12.9 million contract will draw considerable interest at the trade deadline and for a team so raw and so green, it makes more sense for general manager Daryl Morey to flip him for another young prospect or first-round draft pick as the Rockets continue their quest to land a foundational player to build upon. It seems unlikely Martin would finish the season in Houston.
"I'm trying not to look at it like that," he said. "I won't lie. This is not the best situation to be in, but I'm gonna go it with. I'm gonna be the guy that practices hard, that plays hard and that the coach doesn't ever have to worry about.
"If I'm healthy, I'm an elite shooting guard in this league and the rest will take care of itself. Somewhere."
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