By: Sam Ekstrom | KFAN.com
The Wolves fulfilled their need for a shooting guard by signing former Thunder guard Kevin Martin to a four-year, $28 million deal on July 11. Just over one month later, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders introduced him to the Twin Cities media.
“Our players, whether it’s Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio, have great respect for Kevin,” said Saunders. “It’s great to have a veteran in your locker room that can send the message of Coach Adelman to the players.”
Said Martin, now playing for his fourth NBA team, “It was a very easy decision to come up to Minnesota. I realized that I made the right decision when I saw Rick Adelman and he gave me a hug.”
Martin, 30, began his career in 2004 with the Sacramento Kings under Rick Adelman; then found himself playing under Adelman again from 2009-11 in Houston.
A trend seems to be developing. Martin, acquired in a sign-and-trade with Oklahoma City, reunites with Adelman once again as the venerable coach begins his third season at the helm in Minnesota.
Martin should have no trouble acclimating to the Adelman offense, having played under him for four total seasons. Said Saunders, “We’re bringing in a guy who, outside of Coach Adelman and three assistant coaches, knows the offense better than anybody.”
According to Martin, Saunders has told him he’ll be expected to score around 17-18 points per game for the Wolves, who were 20th in offensive production last season.
“No pressure doing that. I can do that in my sleep,” said Martin, whose career scoring average sits at 17.8 PPG, but has exceeded 20 PPG in five different seasons.
“It’s a great team, and I feel very blessed to play with a team of this caliber.”
Saunders loves the perimeter threat Martin provides as he comes off a career best three-point shooting percentage (.426) last season. But while the offensive numbers seem like a given, Martin’s ability to defend opposing two-guards has been questioned.
Saunders admitted that Martin may not be the best one-on-one defender in the NBA, but mentioned that defense isn’t simply an individual skill. “It’s not one-on-one. It’s team defense,” Saunders said.
Martin acknowledged that defense must be a priority, especially for a young team amidst a nine-year playoff drought.
“To make noise and get to where we want to be, we need to strive to be a top-five, top-six defensive team,” said Martin, who was part of Oklahoma City’s top-10 defense last season.
The nine-year veteran was traded to the Thunder before last season as part of the deal that brought rising star James Harden to Houston. This set up a number of comparisons between Martin and the All-Star Harden that Saunders considers unfair.
“He’s different,” said Saunders of his new acquisition. “He’s not Harden. He’s Kevin Martin… He plays the right way.”
Martin, wearing No. 23, will make his Wolves debut on Oct. 30 in the season-opener against Orlando. He’ll face his former teammates two days later when the Wolves play Oklahoma City on Nov. 1.