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Martin vows to prove his worth again after knee surgery

Nuggets forward eager to silence the doubters


Kenyon Martin knows the doubters exist. They’ve shadowed him in some form or another for the better part of his life.

They emerged while he was growing up in the projects of Oak Cliff, Texas; resurfaced when he broke his right fibula in his final college game for Cincinnati; and picked up again after he endured microfracture surgery on both knees in an 18-month span from May 2005 to November 2006.

Martin, 32, proved the doubters wrong by becoming an All-Star for the New Jersey Nets within four years of being the top pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. He since has reinvented himself with the Nuggets while becoming the first pro athlete to overcome two microfracture procedures.

Facing another recovery following surgery to repair a torn patella tendon in his left knee, Martin knows that some people will be wondering just how much more he can contribute at the NBA level.

At this point, he almost invites them to count him out again.

“People done wrote me off before,” he said as the Nuggets opened training camp. “Ten years ago in college they said I ain’t going to play no more. Two microfracture surgeries and I ain’t going to play no more.”

Martin then looked down at his No. 4 Nuggets jersey and made a friendly promise to the reporters surrounding his chair: “I’ll see y’all in a few months when I can put this back on.”

Martin was a force at both ends of the court for the Nuggets in his first 51 games last season, recording 23 double-doubles – including 19 in a two-month span from Christmas to Feb. 25 – but his injured knee forced him to the sideline for seven weeks down the stretch. During that time, he went through a groundbreaking plasma-rich platelet treatment in an attempt to expedite the healing process.

As the playoffs approached, he had two options: Have surgery right away and be ready for 2010-11, or rest up and then play with some pain during the postseason. For Martin, the choice was obvious.

“We were in a position to make noise in the playoffs. I’m not going to leave them guys out there,” he said. “We needed to be at full-strength. Whether I’m 100 percent or not, I need to be on the court. That was my thought. I don’t regret the decision of trying to play.”

After returning for the final three games of the regular season, Martin averaged 10.0 points and 8.3 rebounds during Denver’s 4-2 series loss to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. He had surgery in Vail over the summer and hopes to return at some point to help the Nuggets reach the postseason for the eighth year in a row.

“I’m getting there. It’s a slow process,” he said. “I’ve been there before. It’s not the first one; hopefully it’s the last one. It’s something different than I’ve dealt with before, but it ain’t going to slow me down. It ain’t going to stop me.”

Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess agrees. Hess worked closely with Martin after each of his previous knee operations.

“I have zero doubt in Kenyon’s work ethic,” Hess said. “When you know a guy and have spent as much time as I have with Kenyon, I have absolutely no doubt in my head that he’ll come back better than he ever did. He’s done it twice. The third time’s going to be even better.”

Martin is smart enough not to put a timetable on his return, lest it be perceived as a setback should he miss the target date. In the meantime Al Harrington is expected to see increased minutes after signing with the team as a free agent in July.

“He’s a player. He’s legit,” Nuggets coach George Karl said after watching Harrington go through his first practice with the team Tuesday. “He’ll help us win some games.”

Harrington’s value increases when you consider that forward Chris Andersen also is recovering from surgery to repair a torn patella tendon. Martin managed to find dark humor in their coincidental injuries.

“Me and ‘Bird.’ His right knee my left knee,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can put it together and get it done.”


Contact Aaron J. Lopez at alopez@pepsicenter.com