On the day he reunited with a coach he knows so well from two other times and places, new Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin attributed his lengthy, lucrative career in part to Rick Adelman’s nurturing ways, saying, “He raised me well in this league from Day 1.” ¶ That first day was Martin’s rookie year with Sacramento after the Kings drafted him unsung and 26th overall in 2004 out of Western Carolina. ¶ That first season included only 10 minutes played per game, that is when he did play in a year when Martin was left off the playoff roster for a first-round meeting with Seattle. ¶ Left with no other job, Martin was asked by Adelman during practice that week to play the part of Sonics shooter Ray Allen in scouting run-throughs and scrimmages. ¶ “And he was Ray Allen,” Adelman recalled late last season. “He just lit us up in practices. So we thought maybe we’d made a mistake at that point. He showed what he could do during that time.”
The Kings lost in five games to Seattle that spring, but Martin averaged 10.8 points and nearly 27 minutes in 72 games, including 41 starts, the next season, Adelman’s eighth and final in Sacramento.
Without him, Martin averaged 20.2, 23.7 and 24.6 points the next three seasons, becoming one of the league’s most efficient scorers by showing an ability to hit the three-pointer and get to the free-throw line.
“I don’t know how much impact I had, but I know Kevin and it’s amazing what he has been able to accomplish and how he turned it on the way he did,” Adelman said then. “He figured out how to be successful in this league and some young guys don’t do that. He figured out in a couple years how to get to the free-throw line. He had trust in his shot, and he had a funky shot when we got him. But it kept going in, so why worry about it?
“I just think he really learned how to be an effective player in this league. If he gets on the floor for 30 minutes, he’s going to score 20 points. That’s how efficient he is.”
Nine years later, Martin says he remains capable of scoring 20 points a night “in my sleep,” particularly now that he’s back with a coach for whom he thrived in both Sacramento and Houston and returning to a job starting at shooting guard after he played sixth man for Oklahoma City last season.
He’ll also be alongside Ricky Rubio, a guy Martin calls unlike any point guard with whom he has played. That list includes Mike Bibby, Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry, Eric Maynor and Russell Westbrook.
“It felt like I fit perfect with what they need,” Martin said Tuesday by phone from his Ohio home. “I’ll be playing with what I feel like is a future top five point guard in this league. I’ve never played with a pass-first point guard my whole life, despite all the points I’ve scored.”
Martin is 195 points from reaching 10,000 points scored in his career. He was asked how many more he thinks he might score alongside that point guard who creates more for others than he does himself.
“I don’t know, that’s what I’m excited to see,” Martin said. “He’s a very high IQ basketball player. I think I’m the same. I know Rick’s system. He likes wing players who can move well without the ball. I know how to do that, and we know what Ricky can do with the ball. So we’ll see where it takes us.”
Martin’s agreement on a four-year contract worth nearly $28 million with the Wolves came on the same afternoon that the Wolves also reached terms with Chase Budinger on a three-year, $15 million deal. The two played together in Houston and in Adelman’s final season with the Rockets, the team went 15-7 down the stretch with Budinger and Martin starting together.
There’s little question both players can shoot, score and move well without the ball. They are only two pieces on an offensively gifted team that must decide how they will defend opponents now that former starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko apparently is long gone.
“We have to make a valid effort,” Martin said about a team that still looking to add a defensive-minded swingman. “That’s what I learned playing on a 60-win team this year. You have to play both ends of the court.”
The Wolves chose Martin over fellow free-agent shooting guard O.J. Mayo — who is five years younger and the better defender — because of his relationship with Adelman and his offensive efficiency on a team that until now has lacked a tall shooting guard.
Martin is 6-7, 30 years old and nine years removed from that day Adelman told him to be Ray Allen, and he has played something like it after meticulously expanding his game every summer in Florida with personal coach David Thorpe, the ESPN.com analyst.
“He loves to tell that story and it’s true,” Martin said of Adelman. “I wouldn’t be here without him, and I still have a lot left in me. I have a body of a 26-year-old. I feel comfortable I can get right back to being myself starting at two guard. I have a lot left in my tank.”