By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
Posted Oct 13 2010 2:28PM
Kevin Martin heard all the talk, all the rumors.
He was barely settling into his new digs in Houston and there he was being packed up in the gossip mill and being offered to Denver in return for Carmelo Anthony.
Here was a guy sweating his buns off all summer long inside a hot gym in Tampa each afternoon, trying to get ready for his first full season with the Rockets, and then each night having to sweat out talk each night about whether he'd get to play more than a half-season with the team.
"My sources tell me I shouldn't even answer those questions," Martin said with a grin. "There are a lot of sources out there, most of them with no names attached. I'll just be glad when the games start and we can get back to basketball."
When the real games begin -- for the Rockets on Oct. 26 in L.A. against the defending champion Lakers -- Martin will be back to basketball and back in the starting lineup of a Houston team that believes he's a key to making a serious run in the playoffs.
The 27-year-old guard came to the Rockets last February as part of a trading deadline deal that ended the Tracy McGrady in Houston and also shipped out budding forward Carl Landry to Sacramento.
That's how much the Rockets believed in Martin and that's how badly they wanted him.
Over the 24 games of the season, Martin averaged 21.3 points, but shot only 43.5 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the 3-point line. That's why he spent so much time working with personal coach David Thorpe during the offseason.
"David and I put in a lot of work every summer, usually trying to concentrate on specific areas of my game," he said. "But this summer it was really about an overall approach, just trying to get my body feeling right. I think we accomplished getting me comfortable again."
That is, at least until those trade rumors began to swirl around him. The truth is that the Rockets were trying to actively get into the pursuit of Anthony, but were told early on that the Nuggets were not interested in what they had to offer. That included Martin. But that did not stop Martin from at one point jokingly volunteering that he'd be willing to "dress up as Carmelo" to make Houston fans happy if he were still on the roster by Halloween.
He'll be in the Rockets' lineup for trick or treating, for Christmas and right through Memorial Day next spring if the plans to combine Martin's slashing, shooting scoring style with Yao Ming's surgically-repaired low post game are as successful as everyone helps.
In theory, Martin and point guard Aaron Brooks (2007 Most Improved Player) will push the tempo every chance they get and pile up easy transition baskets in the running game, then dump the ball inside to Yao on the occasions when it gets late in the shot-clock.
"The idea is to take advantage of two of our strengths," said general manager Daryl Morey. "With Kevin and Aaron last year, we were very efficient in scoring early and two years ago with Yao we were one of the best teams in the league at scoring late. Combining those two strengths has the potential to take us a new offensive level."
To get there the 6-foot-7 Martin wants to go back to being his old self when he first came into the NBA and played two seasons for current Rockets coach Rick Adelman in Sacramento and before he missed significant portions of two seasons with injuries.
"I thought I came into Houston and did a pretty good job after the trade last season," he said. "But you're still coming into an organization right in the middle and you never really fit completely in. Plus, I was still not completely healthy.
"Now I'll be different. I'll be back to my pre-wrist injury form and able to do the things that I am capable of doing. This season I'm not looking just to get to know everybody and to try to fit in. Now I want to show all the things that I can do and I want to lead."
"I really don't think I have anything to prove," he said. "You know, sources say I can play."
YAO ON THE CLOCK
After a one-year absence, the Rockets will limit Yao Ming to 24 minutes a game to keep him healthy all season.
SHARE THE WEALTH
The key to coach Rick Adelman's offense is quick decisions to keep the ball moving and keep the offense balance.
PUT THE "D" BACK IN DEFENSE
Yao's return will allow the Rockets to protect the rim, but they've also got to tighten things up on the perimeter.
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LAST YEAR: 42-40, 3rd in Southwest
FINISH: Missed playoffs
2009-10 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2009-10 Stats|
SHANE BATTIER, FORWARD
8 PPG | 4.7 RPG | 2.4 APG
Recovered from a bruised, hurting season, Mr. Dependable will anchor the defense and be back to handle all of the dirty work.
LUIS SCOLA, FORWARD
16.2 PPG | 8.6 RPG | 51.4 FG%
Numbers will go down with Yao Ming back, but his show at the World Championship says he can step up and deliver at any time.
YAO MING, CENTER
19.7 PPG | 9.9 RPG | 54.8 FG%
At 30, Yao's brittle body may be on last chance to achieve big things so he's putting pressure on himself to do it now.
AARON BROOKS, GUARD
19.6 PPG | 5.3 APG | 39.8 3PT%
He's exceeded expectations at every level of his career and now, coming off a Most Improved Player award, he wants to be an All-Star.
KEVIN MARTIN, GUARD
21.3 PPG | 2.3 APG | 43.5 FG%
In first full season in Houston, he expects to be a lead horse pulling the wagon high up the standings and deep into the playoffs.
|Kyle Lowry||6-0||205||G||Feisty, hard-nosed backup at the point.|
|Brad Miller||7-0||261||C||Finally, a backup center who score when Yao sits.|
|Courtney Lee||6-5||200||G||Versatile wingman can D it up and score.|
ADDED: Patrick Patterson, Brad Miller, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Courtney Lee
LOST: David Andersen, Trevor Ariza
YAO MING, CENTER
You can sing the praises of the backcourt combination of Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin. You can recognize the crafty moves of Luis Scola and Shane Battier. But the Rockets' hopes of becoming playoff contenders rest on the fragile feet of Yao. He must stay healthy to be a low-post presence on offense and guard the rim on defense.
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