Hindsight is naturally 20/20, but with the New York Knicks arriving in town on a four-game winning streak, featuring the services of Kenyon Martin, the question came up casually during yesterday’s press conference with Doc Rivers:
Why didn’t the Celtics sign the aging but proven power forward when they had the chance last month?
Before we dig into the idea, let’s first hear Doc’s side of things:
“I don’t know [why we didn't sign Martin.] We looked at other guys. We were still looking at guards at the time. We were in no hurry at the time for a big. We were looking more for a big of size, if you know what I mean. By the time we got around to it, he was gone.”
Doc also had plenty of positive things to say about Kenyon’s play this season:
“I think Kenyon’s been great. I think he’s been fantastic. I’m happy for Kenyon, although I’m not happy he went to the Knicks. He was out there, we looked at him. A lot of guys looked at him. I don’t care where he ended up, I just wanted him to do well. Guys like that, you want them to do well. I don’t know him well, but we have always had a very good relationship.”
Kenyon’s numbers back up Doc’s strong words about his performance thus far.
The former number one overall pick has played 11 games for the Knickerboxers. He’s averaging 23.6 minutes per game and has posted some stellar numbers during that court time.
8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 62.7% FG, 1.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game during those 11 contests. It hasn’t been all good (just 40 percent shooting from the free throw line) and it’s a very limited sample size. However, for a guy that was willing to accept a 10-day contract for the chance to play, these are some pretty impressive stats, far surpassing the kind of figures he put together last year in his stint with the Clippers.
So did the Celtics make a mistake in not signing Martin?
In all honestly, it’s too soon to tell. That’s largely because the players the Celtics signed in lieu of Martin (D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph) haven’t been given ample opportunity (yet) to prove their worth. They’ve been understandably buried at the bottom of the bench rotation with a couple of mixed performances against Charlotte added in. When we see more from them, which we surely will with Garnett sidelined for a couple weeks, we’ll be able to make a better assessment.
Still, that doesn’t fully address the question. If given the choice in February, the C’s almost surely would have taken Martin over White or Randolph (one would think) when all were available, although it’s entirely possible the front office had their reservations about Martin despite Doc’s glowing words about him.
Either way, the C’s held two open roster spots before the trade deadline, that went unfilled for weeks as the team kept their flexibility open for any big trades. They didn’t want to be hamstrung by a 10-day deal on the books if they needed space for more bodies in a trade to take back. Worrying about the 74 million dollar hard cap may have been a concern as well to hold off on signing guys for a couple weeks, since the C’s were dangerously close to that this year, knowing they needed to sign free agents to replace injured players.
All things being equal, Ainge likely wanted the dust to settle at the trade deadline before making a play for Martin. As the injuries piled up for the Knicks in February however, they suddenly became a more desirable opportunity for playing time than Boston would have been. Choosing to wait it out for Kenyon cost Ainge the possibility of being a desirable destination for the C’s compared to their rivals. New York dealt away Ronnie Brewer and signed Martin at the trade deadline. White and Randolph signed with Boston a couple days later.
Ultimately, all of this shouldn’t matter too much. Martin, like Randolph and White, are flawed players. There’s a reason they were all out of the league for most of the year. However, there’s no doubting Martin has given New York a nice boost (particularly on the offensive glass) that Boston certainly could have used these past couple weeks. Whether White and/or Randolph can do the same for Boston in the coming days is the more important question at the moment for C’s fans.
We’ll start to find out tonight.