Filling the shoes of James Harden in Oklahoma City is no easy task. However, through two games, Kevin Martin has proved that he’s up to the challenge.
The biggest concern for the Thunder coming into the first week of the season was how long it would take Martin to mesh with his new team and his new role. Since the opening tip against San Antonio, Martin has been nothing short of consistent.
“When K-Mart comes in he just makes things happen,” Scott Brooks said after the Thunder’s win over Portland Friday. “It’s his ability to move without the ball. He’s not a one-dimensional scorer at all. He can score, he can get to the line and he can shoot three’s. He sets up his man as well as anybody on our team.”
Martin scored 15 points in Oklahoma City’s loss to the Spurs on Thursday and dropped 19 in their win over Portland Friday. Over the first two games he shot 6-9 from long range and 9-21 from the field overall. He has seven assists and just one turnover in over 60 minutes and has looked comfortable while playing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“We’re very comfortable together,” Martin said. “We have such different skill sets. I can move without the ball and they (Durant and Westbrook) love to have the ball in their hands. That’s when I can come in and find a corner or just read how the defense is playing them. We have a great connection right now.”
It’s one thing to change teams and it’s another to change roles. Martin has been a starter for most of his career and has never had to take on the role of sixth man. He seems to be embracing the challenge for the Thunder and has had to do it while learning on the run.
“We’ve given him a speedy course on how we like to do things and he’s picking it up on the fly,” Brooks said. “He knows how to play and he does a lot of good things that we can use offensively and defensively.”
“When you score for a team that doesn’t have a lot of success, the natural thing to think is that he’s not a good defender,” Brooks said. “But he’s done defensive things that we like and he’s only going to get better with our group.”
Martin has embraced the role of coming off the bench so far this season, but he claims that the team has made the transition from starter to sixth man a smooth change.
“They’re making it easy for me,” Martin said. “You have to have a punch coming off the bench and that’s our biggest strength right now. We’ve got to keep gelling as a group and help get the first group of guys some rest when they come off the court. That’s our role off the bench.”
Martin may not have the skill set that Harden possesses offensively or defensively. However, one thing Martin does have is basketball intelligence and sometimes that can be more important than raw talent.