Last night maybe the only time you will hear a team praise a teammate so highly after fouling out in limited action
Kenyon Martin was signed by the Knicks to a 10 day contract on February 21st, but had played a total of five minutes in six games. But New York was playing their second straight game without Carmelo Anthony, and coach Mike Woodson decided to give Martin a shot to contribute to the shorthanded Knicks.
Martin played a season high of 17 minutes, and made the most of every single one in last night's 97-96 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Kenyon was huge for us,” coach Mike Woodson said. “He gave us a big lift, a guy who hasn’t played much for us. i know I can play him and he can defend a few positions.”
Despite fouling out of the game, Martin will likely stay with the team the rest of the season after the defense he played on Kevin Durant.
“That’s the way I’ve been playing ever since I picked up a basketball,” Martin said. “But just showing them that I’ve still got it. Especially on the defensive end. Of course that ain’t going nowhere.”
Durant still ended up scoring 34 points on the night, but was certainly rattled when faced up against Martin. Durant, who is the NBA's leading scorer at 28.6, started settling for jump shots and didn't even think about driving to the rim.
"He's had some success guarding 3s and 4s and 5s in our league," Mike Woodson said afterward. "That's what he does; he can guard people. I thought it was a perfect time to give him a shot on Durant. I thought he did an excellent job. ... Durant really had to work to get his points tonight."
Martin also brings some much needed toughness that evident last night. The former number 1 pick hit Durant with a hard foul mid-air, which was initially called a flagrant. Martin has always had a reputation of committing hard fouls since his days with the New Jersey Nets.
“I’m not trying to hurt anyone,” he said. “It’s a contact sport. I want to let them know it’s not going to be easy. That’s always how I’ve approached the game.”
Martin's boxscore certainly didn't tell the story of his game. He finished with only four points, one rebound, and one steal. But he did score two of those points on an alley-oop finish that had MSG rocking. However, his teammates don't seem to care about his stats. They were raving about his toughness and energy.
“He brings a bruiser,” Raymond Felton said. “He can guard one through five. At the same time, when we get knocked on the floor, or put in the ground, you know that he’s going to do it to the other team. It’s always good to have a guy like that.”
Said Tyson Chandler, "I was glad to see him out there. Durant is a tough matchup for anybody. He brings great energy on both ends.”
The question is how much Martin will play when Anthony returns to the lineup. How will Woodson shuffle minutes between Martin and Marcus Camby? Woodson said earlier in the week that Camby was ahead of Martin in the depth chart. Camby didn't even enter the game last night.
“As we move up this road, Kenyon’s going to be a factor for us, I think, defensively,” Woodson said. “That’s why we’re keeping him around on our ballclub.”