As we move forward towards the draft and into the offseason, it seems as though the contribution of Knicks PF/C Kenyon Martin has been overlooked. The pairing of the Knicks and K-Mart seemed to be match made in heaven. The Knicks were looking to sure up their front line after injuries to Marcus Camby and Amar’e Stoudemire. In the mean time K-Mart was looking for an opportunity for a clean slate. When the Knicks signed Kenyon, a one-time nemesis, nobody knew exactly what to expect. Sure we knew he would add help on the backboards, as well as provide energy off the bench. What we did not know is that Kenyon Martin would become arguably the most consistent big man on the Knicks roster.
After being passed over as a free agent until Feb. 21, Kenyon came to the Knicks with a chip on his shoulder. Martin felt as though he had done enough in his tenure with the Clippers to garner a free-agent deal coming into this past season. Teams shied away from signing Martin, stating that his attitude would not be a good fit for their club. This was a major reality check to Martin, who sat around waiting for the opportunity to change his image. All other teams passed on the chance to sign K-Mart until the Knicks came knocking with a glaring need for a big man. Martin became an instant fan favorite as soon as he put on the Knicks uniform. He ignited the Knicks team with a dose of energy they had been lacking prior to the signing.
In the latter part of K-Mart’s career he has become sort of a throwback player. With his high-flying Nets days behind him, Martin has developed into a solid rebounder and presence on the defensive end. Martin’s shot blocking ability added a strong dynamic to the Knicks defense. I think Kenyon’s biggest impact on the Knicks team was the element of toughness he brought. Martin often did his best Oakley and Mason impersonation, preventing all layups and easy baskets at the rim with hard fouls. He made opposing players think twice about driving the ball to the hoop knowing that he would be there waiting for them at the rim.
K-Mart also showed he is no slouch on the offensive side of the ball as well. Martin displayed the ability to finish around the rim, as well as his ability with his somewhat awkward, but effective runner in the lane. While I would like to see K-Mart become more consistent with his short jump shooting ability, he did show signs that he could make that shot. Offense may not be Martin’s strong suit at this point of his career, but he will surely do some things to help on the offensive end. Whether it be throwing down a two-handed dunk, or keeping alive an offensive rebound, K-Mart will do the intangibles and dirty work on offense.
We all know as things stand now, the Knicks will be limited with what they can do on the free-agent market. With their spending limitations, the Knicks will be hard-pressed to find a player better than Kenyon Martin. Who would be the other options? If given the choice, I would surely take K-Mart over another player such as Dejuan Blair in San Antonio. After injury plagued seasons for both Amar’e Stoudemire and Marcus Camby, you cannot go into next season relying on that pair to stay healthy. This makes stabilizing the front line even more of a necessity for the Knicks going forward. The Knicks may look to the draft to sure up the front line, but K-Mart is a proven NBA player. The scary thing about the draft is you don’t always know how a player’s game will translate to playing with the big boys. When you are in the “win now” circumstances the Knicks are in, you do not have the leeway of taking a chance on a player and failing. K-Mart has expressed his interest to remain with the Knicks, and the Knicks front-office should express the same desire in keeping Martin in a Knick uniform.