Living the Fantasy: Martin Outta Month

By NBA TV's Rick Kamla

Buzzkill.

Our beloved NBA has already lost LeBron James to a sprained left index finger (for three games and counting) and Tim Duncan to knee and ankle injuries (for tonight’s Dallas game and counting), and now we’re down the seventh-leading scorer as well.

Fortunately, the James and Duncan injuries have not been reported to be serious, but the same could not be said of Sacramento’s All-Star candidate Kevin Martin, who suffered a significant groin injury in Tuesday’s win over the Jazz. Per internet reports, Martin will miss at least four weeks, and his absence could extend to six.

Sacramento’s All-Star candidate Kevin Martin, who suffered a significant groin injury in Tuesday’s win over the Jazz will miss at least four weeks, and his absence could extend to six.
(Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)
This is a devastating blow to Martin’s fantasy owners, much more so than the Kings, who can simply promote super-sub John Salmons. Hold that thought on Salmons…

Through 17 games, Martin is the 24th ranked player across the primary eight categories (P-R-A-B-S-FG-FT-3PT) thanks to averages of 24.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 threes, 1.4 steals, and 85 percent from the line. Martin has been a disappointment in the field goal category, as increased defensive attention has dropped that mark to a pedestrian 43 percent after splashing 47 percent last season.

But we aren’t here to nitpick at Martin’s statistics, we’re here to console Martin (if he’s reading), calm down the Kings Nation, and advise Martin’s fantasy owners.

(Speaking of statistics, I don’t know if you saw this quote, but I gotta share it with you. Brent Barry from SI.com: “Statistics are like bikinis. They’re nice to look at but they don’t tell you the whole story.” Genius.)

If you are a fan of the Kings, first of all, lemme congratulate you on the coaching change from Eric Musselman to Reggie Theus. That’s like upgrading from Tara Reid to Beyonce. (I don’t care what you say, that’s an UPGRADE). Second, congrats on your team’s owners, the classy Maloof Family, who fully intends to keep the Kings in Sacto. Finally, congrats on your team’s shrewd acquisition of Salmons in the summer of 2006.

Salmons, picked 26th by the Sixers in 2002, proved he could play early in the season when Ron Artest was serving his seven-game suspension. In eight starts this season, Salmons has averaged 20.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals, with shooting percentages of .479 from the field and .800 from the line. Sweet, huh?

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Salmons may not be a household name yet, but this dude has major game—he can put the ball in the hole with the slash or J, defend the wing, and play efficiently.

And Salmons was the hero of last night’s win over the Jazz, scoring 13 straight points right after Martin went down late in the third quarter. Salmons finished with 21 points in 27 minutes as the Kings dropped a 43-point fourth quarter on the Jazz in the 117-107 win. As Theus said after the game: "Five or six times in a row I went right to him and he made something happen. You put him in the spots where he can play and he can usually make it happen."

Salmons isn’t Martin, and Salmons was out of line for throwing a tantrum when he lost the starting small forward job to the reinstated Artest, but he will more than hold down the fort until Martin returns in early-to-mid January. By the way, Mike Bibby is due back from his thumb surgery in late January, so the Kings should have their starting backcourt reunited for at least the last two and a half months of the season. (That is, if Bibby isn’t traded to Cleveland or Miami or somewhere else…)

So…if you’re a proud Kings fan, please come in off the ledge. It’s cold out there. And close the window behind you. Thanks.

Now to the fantasy portion of this transmission.

If you own Martin and did not already have Salmons for insurance, I’m not mad at you because handcuffing starters and backups is rare in fantasy basketball. Unless your league has large rosters, you pretty much need to carry players who are getting enough burn to help your team TODAY. It’s tough to carry upside guys like Salmons when they are only logging 20-some minutes.

That said, you need to pick up Salmons immediately because he is going to replicate the aforementioned starter’s numbers until Martin crawls back to the lineup. I just missed Salmons in League Freak, as I was beaten to the punch by Steve Alexander (Dr. A of Rotoworld fame).

But my disappointment in missing out on Salmons quickly morphed to curiosity with regards to a player already on my roster: Beno Udrih.

The Slovenian point guard, who was traded from the Spurs to the Wolves then dumped and signed by the Kings at the start of the season, has been a huge addition to the Kings’ lineup and a pleasant surprise to fantasy owners. Whereas the Kings were dying in the wake of the Bibby injury with point guard wannabes Orien Greene and Francisco Garcia, they now have a head on the court with Beno.

As displayed by his averages as a starter, the dude can play the game. The Slovenian answer to Paul Rudd is averaging 15.2 points, 4.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 threes, and he’s shooting 49 percent from the field and 93 percent from the stripe in nine starts. If only Rudd could act that well. (Just kidding, freaks. Rudd is a known fantasy player and he was hilarious in “Anchorman” and “Knocked Up”. His wife in the latter was so annoying and so offensive to the male population, I had to tell my wife to get sick for me.)

Udrih’s recent success raises the question, why did he lose the backup point guard job to Jacque Vaughn in San Antonio?

My theory is that—whether it was a conflict of personalities or style of play or a combination of both—Udrih just wasn’t a good fit in Gregg Popovich’s system. Fair enough. Not every player can play for every coach and not every coach can coach every player. In other words, it’s not personal, just business, so hit the road and see if you fit in somewhere else.

Udrih has been everything Theus could have asked for and more, totally stabilizing this team. The Kings have won five of their last nine games and Udrih deserves a lot of the credit. Now that Martin is on the shelf, I could see Beno taking at least a couple more shots per game, which is obviously the right direction to be heading. To me, Udrih just went from intriguing fantasy prospect/pickup to fantasy rotation player. In other words, he should not still be on waivers regardless of league size or setup.

Which brings us back to Artest, who is playing with a heavy heart these days because his daughter is currently being treated for kidney cancer. On behalf of everyone here at NBA.com, our thoughts and prayers are with you right now, Ron.

Artest has said that when his daughter needs him, he will leave the team and be with her. But while he’s still with the Kings, who need him more than ever without Martin, Artest should have several explosive games. He racked up a five-cat line of 23-8-5-1-1 in the win over Utah and those should be his minimums as long as Martin is out.

Before bringing down the curtain on this week’s LTF, I want to extend condolences to every NBA player and coach who has lost someone they care about over the past year. It has been a very, very sad year in that regard and we can only hope that 2008 brings more happiness and peace.

During the regular season, NBA TV fantasy expert Rick Kamla writes a weekly column, Living the Fantasy, on NBA.com. E-mail him at fantasyhoops@nba.com

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