HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Kevin Martin has been baffling fans and analysts alike all season long. He clearly still has ability to score, since he has dropped at least 30 points in one game in each month this year, but he has also disappeared like Bigfoot throughout the course of the season.
At a SportsRadio 610 event on Monday, Calvin Murphy said that Martin was a “true shooter,” which is a rare commodity in the NBA. However, the flashes of brilliance that Martin has shown make the low moments all the more frustrating. It is difficult to watch someone with rare talent shoot the ball three times and miss all of them throughout the course of the game.
Martin has forced coach Kevin McHale to sit him because he is refusing to shoot the ball. Martin is simply not playing as part of the team on offense, and his defense has always been well below par. He is neither an above average passer nor rebounder. If he doesn’t shoot, he is a liability to the team. He isn’t shooting.
Everyone has a bad day, week or even month. Every shooter hits a cold streak. The difference is that they keep pushing. When Ray Allen struggles with his shot, he doesn’t completely fold up and stop trying. He shoots his way out of it, even if that means that his shots don’t fall for several games.
Martin’s lack of effort is earning him a rare share of the fans’ ire. It is one thing to be bad; it is far worse to be good and not try hard enough. While there may be plenty of people that have an issue with Hasheem Thabeet making $5 million while sitting on the bench, there are far more people that have an issue with Martin grabbing a seat next to him with about 20 minutes remaining in the game and keeping him company for the rest of the game.
There are only two things that could be affecting Martin. The first has been the much discussed trade that was then vetoed by commissioner David Stern. The thought is that Martin’s psyche was damaged by the thought that he might not be able to stay here in Houston. While this concept is often tossed out after a trade is made public and then does not go through, it seems less plausible here because Martin had already been traded. He was traded to Houston a few years ago in the Tracy McGrady deal, so he should be well aware of the possibility.
What seems more likely is that he is having trouble adjusting to the rules that don’t allow him to walk to the free throw line almost at will. He is currently attempting about half as many free throws as he did last year. What is even more surprising is that even though it feels like Martin is never on the floor, he is averaging just one minute less per game over the course of the season.
This means that there is a drastic change in the way that Martin is scoring. Many times, when a player is in a shooting slump they will attack the basket to get to the free throw line so that they can see the ball go through the basket. Martin rarely attacks the basket, but would frequently kick his legs out while taking a jump-shot in order to draw a cheap foul. However, with officials less willing to give him that, or similar calls, he seems unable to get himself on track for any extended period of time.
Every time there is a change in the rules, there will be a negative impact on some players and a positive impact on others. If this is what is bothering Martin, then there are few examples of a player being more affected by a single rule change in recent memory.