Kenyon Martin was very close to being a Boston Celtic earlier this season. Just one day after we at CelticsHub wondered about why the team didn’t sign the veteran power forward when he was a free agent, Martin addressed the possibility specifically last night on the heels of another strong effort for Boston’s division rival.
Martin was asked about whether it looked like the C’s could have used him out there last night:
“It’s their fault. They lost,” Martin continued. “There was talks, there was negotiations, they chose not to do it. It was out of my control. I’m a Knick now, so they lost.”
And does Martin now play with a chip on his shoulder because of being passed over?
“I’m just here to prove to people that I’ve never lost it. I guess I’m a better person than I am a basketball player. But the chip I’ve always played with hasn’t gotten bigger. I’m here to prove what I can do – that’s everybody, every night. It doesn’t start with the Celtics. Whoever puts that uniform on is opposite us. They’re going to see what they’re missing.”
Martin got even more specific though about what caused Boston to pull out of a potential deal with him earlier in the year.
The former number one pick spoke to Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com to give further details:
“It was real close,” Martin told me before last night’s game. “Like, the deal was almost done. From what I understood, Doc wanted me and the players wanted me, but in the 11th hour …”
In the 11th hour what?
“They didn’t pull the trigger,” Martin said. “And I’m not talking a few days ago or even a few weeks ago. This was a couple of months ago.
“So now I’m here and I’m going to make them pay — I’m going to make all the teams that passed on me pay.”
So there you have it: the Celtics kicked the tires, but appeared to leave Martin at the altar, or close to it. As I went through yesterday in my column, there were problem a few different reasons for this. His numbers last year weren’t stellar in LA. His rebounding, the one area Boston probably wanted to address most, appeared to be on the decline. The Celtics wanted to wait things out to see if anyone else became available. All of these factors were possibilities on why Danny Ainge failed to pull the trigger.
Like Paul Pierce though, Martin is defying the numbers at his advanced age, putting together the kind of consistency offensively and usefulness on the defensive end of the floor that Doc Rivers would kill for right now from a big man off his bench.
I guess my biggest issue though with the non-signing, is the fact that Rivers is unwilling to play the guys that were signed in place of Martin, in Shavlik Randolph and D.J. White when the team could really use them.
When Boston goes small against the Knicks without Kevin Garnett, New York has equal or better rebounders at almost every position on the floor. Jason Kidd is a great rebounder for a guard, as is JR Smith. Carmelo Anthony is a terrific rebounder when he’s engaged and has the size to outmuscle Pierce. Martin, especially on the offensive glass, is a major weapon.
Last night, Doc didn’t have any answer for any of these guys with the rotation he played and the numbers showed it. 15 offensive rebounds and 29 second chance points for the Knicks. There are two guys on the bench that can rebound pretty well and their names are Randolph and White. It’s clear Doc doesn’t trust them, so I’m not sure why they are on the roster if they can’t get on the floor in games like this.
Rivers deserves some flack for being too stubborn to play them, especially coming off a nice comeback effort in Memphis Saturday night, but some of it has to go back on Ainge too for passing on Martin. Whether he wanted flexibility at the trade deadline or was just unconvinced Martin could contribute, he had to know Doc trusted him and that’s a big factor in signing anyone. You want guys your coach and players trust. Martin was that guy.
Ainge balked when he had the chance, and the C’s, playing without Garnett for the next couple weeks, will be paying because of it when they had the guy who could help them fill KG’s void right under their noise.