Before the season most Nugget fans had written off Kenyon Martin. Not only was he one of the most overpaid players in the league, but he was coming off his second microfracture procedure. It was bad enough when
The book on Martin had been written. He was an untradeable player who would never be healthy and be nothing but a millstone holding the team back. Add in some of his behavioral problems (getting suspended for the remainder of the 2005-2006 playoffs against the Clippers or sending a posse member into the stands to threaten a heckler) and many Nugget fans love to hate K-Mart.
I admit in the past I was part of the chorus who spoke mostly ill of Kenyon Martin. However, over the course of the 2007-2008 season many of my opinions of Martin have changed. I believe he deserves a great deal of credit from Nugget fans for what he accomplished last season.
After the second microfracture surgery Kenyon could have easily given up, mailed in his rehab, sat around on the bench in his business casual wardrobe and collected checks from Stan Kronke. It would have been understandable if he could not come back. After all, there have been plenty of athletes who never came back from just one microfracture proceedure.
Instead, Martin worked his tail off and was able to regain 90% of the athleticism that once made him an All-Star. It does not matter how much you hate the chest pounding and posing he displays after his thunderous dunks, you have to respect the work ethic and heart that Kenyon displayed in order to be healthy and contributing once again.
Entering the season Martin and Nene were both slated to play about 20 minutes a game as they continued to recover from offseason injuries. That plan was altered when Nene broke his thumb in the fifth game of the season. Through the remainder of November Martin averaged slightly under 23 minutes a game. In December Kenyon’s average minutes played jumped up to 31.1. His minutes climbed again in January to 32.7 and peaked in February when Kenyon was on the floor for 35.5 minutes a game.
He could have easily limited his own minutes and no one would have blamed him, but he did not. Not only had he beaten microfracture surgery for the second time, but the Nuggets relied very heavily on him throughout the season because of Nene’s health issues and the fact that, with Steven Hunter tied to the bench, no one else on the roster could defend on the block the way Martin could.
Looking at his numbers they are still disappointing for a player with Kenyon’s contract and original expectations. Kenyon’s game clearly has some warts, most of which we knew about when he arrived from the petro chemical swamps of
What makes Martin special is his commitment to defend his man. Whether it be Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant he loves facing off against the best players the NBA has to offer. That is a powerful attribute and one that is sorely missing from the Nuggets. Marcus Camby gets all the press with his blocks and rebounds, but when
Despite his role and relatively meager statistics, Kenyon is not just a one dimensional player. He can score in the paint, even if it is not in a traditional back to the basket way, he is a marvelous passer, he is the best pick and roll screener on the roster and he can still finish extremely well.
Kenyon will always be an injury risk, but if you look at his career he has only missed more than 17 games twice in his eight seasons. He played in 71 games last season and I see no reason why he could not do it again. You never know who is going to miss 40 games and who is going to play in all 82. Players who were at one time injury risks have become ironmen in the past. Because of what he brings to this team defensively, I would be more than happy to bring him back next season.
That being said his contract is still considered to be one of the more toxic deals in the league with three years and over $45 million(!) left to be paid out. While I appreciate what Kenyon has done by getting back on the court, if
No matter what happens from here, another injury, a trade, a slow fade or maybe even a better season than the last, I think Kenyon Martin deserves some gratitude from Nugget fans. No matter how annoying or underachieving you think he is, he definitely gave it his all and honestly that is all any of us can really ask for.