If Thunder fans’ affections for Kevin Martin and James Harden are still divided, tonight’s game between Oklahoma City and the Houston Rockets could be a good bellwether.
Through 11 games this season, Martin averaged 17.6 points per game, more than the 16.8 points per game that Harden averaged over 64 regular season games last year.
K-Mart might be surpassing the Beard’s offensive output, but is he really filling the void left by the trade that sent Harden, along with center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward, to Houston in return for Martin, guard Jeremy Lamb and multiple draft picks?
“He’s been great,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re still getting to know each other, what he does — and he does well — and we’re still going to find out ways that he can be better. I think the transition has been great.
“James is a good player and we love what he did for our team, but we’re not looking at who replaced who. We wish James well, but we’re excited to have Kevin here.”
Selected 26th by Sacramento in the 2004 NBA draft, Martin spent more than five years with the Sacramento Kings before being traded to Houston in 2009. Averaging a career 18.4 points per game, K-Mart is known as an efficient scorer who moves well without the basketball.
A self-described “low-key guy,” the 29-year-old Martin said his personality fits well with the Thunder.
“They’re kind of low-key, too,” he said, “but you can’t mistake that for our competitiveness.”
‘A good fit’
The transition from starter to sixth man was worrisome for some, but Martin said he is “actually enjoying it.”
Backup point guard Eric Maynor said the Thunder second unit is adjusting well to Martin’s style, although it’s different from Harden’s “old man game.”
“It’s been ... I wouldn’t say all the way smooth, but it’s been good,” Maynor said. “[Last season’s] second unit, we knew everybody, we knew where everybody was going to be. We knew where people wanted their shots, stuff like that. So we just have to get back to that.”
Fans Tara and Alex Greeley celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary Nov. 14 by traveling from Bentonville, Ark., to OKC to see the Thunder take on the Memphis Grizzlies. Although the couple left disappointed — the Grizzlies won 107-97 — they were happy to get a look at the Thunder’s newest star.
“I was pretty heartbroken when [Harden] got traded, but I think Kevin Martin is going to be a good fit,” Tara Greeley said. “He seems to be pretty consistent.”
After posting a season-low seven points on just 1-of-4 shooting against Memphis, Martin exploded for 27 points in a 110-95 win over New Orleans on Nov. 16, and 23 points in a 119-109 win over Golden State two days later.
Although Harden was beloved by fans, Martin said he feels no pressure to replace his production on the court.
“I know what kind of player I’ve been for the past nine years, and I know what kind of output I’ve put on the offensive end,” he said. “To me, it’s just about being efficient and helping this team with whatever I have to do.”