Martin Focused On Helping Wolves Get Back To Playoffs



 

Martin Focused On Helping Wolves Get Back To Playoffs



Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Kevin Martin has a wisdom in his words that comes with being a nine-year NBA veteran. He’s been through the role of an up-and-coming rookie, a featured scorer and a sixth man. And along the way he’s experience different degrees of team success that have molded his perspective on the game.

Perhaps last season personified it best as Martin transitioned from a starter to a role player on a 60-win Oklahoma City Thunder squad.

“It’s not about numbers anymore,” Martin said. “I had so much more praise averaging 14 [points per game] being a sixth man for OKC than 22 a game and playing for a ninth seeded team not making the playoffs in Houston. We know what’s important.”

It’s that philosophy Martin is bringing to Minnesota after officially coming over via an offseason sign-and-trade. Of course, Martin is not going to be a sixth man in this system—he’s viewed as the starting 2-guard the Wolves have desperately needed over the past two seasons under Rick Adelman. But the mindset is the same. Martin has the chance to be one of the missing pieces brought in this offseason that can get this franchise back to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

Martin is new to Minnesota but not new to Adelman, having played for him and much of this current assistant coaching staff during stints in Sacramento and Houston. So he’s entering in already familiar with everything the Wolves are trying to do offensively, and the opportunity to play here with cornerstones Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio as well as the complementary pieces this team has to offer seemed like the right fit.

The goal is to be one of the pieces that helps put the Wolves over the top and into the postseason. It’s something Martin hopes to accomplish this winter. He knows the history surrounding the glory days of this franchise, and he understands the fan base is desperate to get back to that level.

“This kind of situation is totally gratifying, especially me being a free agent and making the decision to come here,” Martin said. “I did enough research on this team to know who fits where on the bench in the game, the whole process. We have the pieces. You have a legit superstar in Kevin Love, and that’s what [the Wolves] had in KG, now they put pieces around him. Ricky has a chance to be the best point guard ever to come through Minnesota. You have guys on the wing, scorers, you have a top center in the league. All the pieces are there.”

Martin’s seen the Wolves’ direction over the last two years since Adelman and his staff took over, and he’s watched as the team built itself around Love and Rubio and completely changed the complexion of the roster to fit specific needs at specific positions. He said in Oklahoma City this year, even a superstar like Kevin Durant mentioned how difficult this offense is to stop when it’s rolling.

Rubio has a lot to do with that, and Martin said being able to play with him is something he’s wanted to do since Rubio’s Draft year in 2009. Back then, Martin was in Sacramento and was watching when Rubio was available with the fourth pick. The Kings ended up selecting Tyreke Evans, and Rubio went fifth to the Wolves.

Martin said he loved Rubio’s game and would have created a dynamic back court. As it turns out, he’ll get his chance to experience that partnership this year.

“After Mike Bibby left, that was the point guard I thought I was going to be playing with for a lot of years,” Martin said. “I thought our games would be perfect…It was a big, outside of Rick, Kevin Love and Flip [Saunders] running the organization, Ricky was a big reason for me coming here.”

Now, Martin said he hopes his arrival can help take some of the pressure off Rubio. Martin knows what it’s like to be a featured player that opposing teams specifically target in their scouting reports, and he hopes he’ll be able to alleviate some of the pressure on Love and Rubio by knocking down some perimeter jumpers and being able to penetrate to the basket.

That’s exactly what the Wolves envision with Martin. They want him to help raise the Wolves’ 3-point percentage this year while also being able to get easy baskets thanks to his knowledge of the offense and his ability to cut and move without the ball.

He gets it, and he’s thrived within the system. His former teammate in Houston, Chase Budinger, said Martin is a comfort guy and plays his best when he’s most comfortable within a team’s system. This particular system he’s entering into is the same one Martin has enjoyed during his best statistical years.

“I’m a product of [Adelman’s] system,” Martin said. “He’s the guy who drafted me, he’s the guy that molded my NBA game. That’s the No. 1 thing.”

It’s not about scoring 22 per game or being a featured guy. It’s about stepping in and helping become one of the new pieces that can get this franchise to the playoffs for the first time since the KG era. That’s the goal and the expectation, and Martin said he feels like the Wolves succeeded in their goal of balancing this team and putting the right players on the roster—ranging from re-signing Budinger and signing Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf.

“I think that’s what Flip and Mr. [Glen] Taylor did,” he said. “They did a great job of filling the holes of what needed to be filled. You look at the possible starting lineup and people off the bench, there are a lot of interchangeable pieces who could build off one another. It looks like an exciting group they’ve put together.”


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