“We feel we can beat anybody in this league if we don’t beat ourselves.” – Kenyon Martin
It is so interesting when I first meet players. Sometimes they are nothing like you would expect. They can be better…or they can be less so.
K-Mart has this image of a league bad guy and a player with an attitude. He had a huge run in with Coach Karl a few years ago in the playoffs. He and Mark Cuban feuded in the media last season over Mark’s comments to and about a Martin family member. I’m sure there might be others.
Normally, as a writer, you want to pick out certain points in a player interview to focus on and build an article around that.
After speaking with Kenyon Martin, the Denver Nuggets power forward recently, I decided to just add a few comments to fill in around his own comments and let his own words tell the story.
He offered the Kenyon Martin view of his injury, his team, playing hurt in the NBA, Kevin Garnett’s injury, and the Celtics.
I found him a very confident player and a thoughtful interview.
Without further ado…
Celtics Central: They say that the status of your injury is ‘indefinite’ right now.
“Just waiting it out to see. Just taking it easy right now. Riding the bike a little bit. No basketball activity right now. Just trying to get the inflammation down.”
Tendonitis, left knee?
If I can get to where I can tolerate some pain, that’s when I’ll try to play.”
Two weeks, three weeks?
Before the playoffs?
“Definitely hoping before the playoffs.
I don’t want to go into the playoffs not having played any games. Been out a significant amount of time. Just want to make sure I’m okay….’cause I don’t want to go out there and the same things happen….Then I have to sit out the playoffs so…I’m not trying to do that.”
So you are on an anti-inflammatory now?
“I was. I stop taking them. I did the P-R-P treatment.”
What’s the PRP treatment?
“Plasma treatment. So I did that. I went to Vail and did that.
Trying to wait to see how that takes hold and I’ll just go from there.”
Assuming you are back for the playoffs….you guys made mention that you believe you can take the Lakers.
“We can beat everybody in this league. I think we proved it. If we don’t beat ourselves and come out and play our A game, we feel we can beat any team in this league. But right now the so called ‘team to beat’ is the Lakers. They’re the defending champions and they had to go through us to get there.”
Was there something about that series that made you feel, if you did a few things different, you could beat that team?
“We gave two games away…with two out of bounds plays.”
(Trevor Ariza made two separate last minute steals in two close games (1st and 3rd) of their series with the Lakers last season.)
“See what I’m saying?”
The Nuggets feel those games were winnable games, and they were. But let the record show both steals occurred with the Lakers up two points at the time each time.
“We were right there. It was 2-2. We were right there.”
Understanding K-Mart felt they gave a couple away, it must be noted they lost the last two playoff games by 9 and 27 points.
“Minus a couple of mental mistakes or breakdowns, we feel we could have (gone) on to the championship. I don’t feel it’s any different this year.”
If they managed to pull out those two early games, maybe the rest of the series would have been different. As it was, they played well at times, even dominated at times. But they eventually folded their tents.
The Nuggets are 2-1 against the Lakers this season with one game left between them.
Besides the Lakers, who do you feel is the biggest threat?
“In the league? I feel Cleveland’s pretty good…especially when they get Zydrunas back. Starting to play pretty good. Orlando’s always tough.
There’s a lot of good teams in the west…a few of them in our division.
We feel we can beat anybody in this league if we don’t beat ourselves.”
While the Nuggets are rebounding about the same as last year, you and Carmelo have picked it up in that category. With Marcus Camby gone, was that intentional?
“Yeah, that was my mindset. Just knowing the rebound trouble we’ve had in the past, since Marcus left…I took it upon myself….I told myself I’m going to try to average a double-double this year so…it’s right there.
I’m just trying to make sure I don’t rely on anyone else to do it. I take it upon my shoulders for em to go out and do it.”
But your game goes beyond rebounding.
“I’m an all around player. I don’t just do one thing on the court. I think that’s what a lot of people respect about me. That I’m not just one dimensional.
When Melo and Chaunce were out, there was a call for me to score the ball, so I did that. So rebounding, like you say…I enjoy the other three (parts) of the game, blocks, steals, making a good pass. Things like that. I’m mostly just an all around player. I’m not someone who (you might say) just does ‘this’ so you have to look out for ‘that.’ You can’t just play him for one thing.”
In watching the Nuggets for the past number of years, it seemed there was a core of you, Melo and Nene…that the Nuggets should have been doing better than you were. It’s only been the past few years that this team has been fulfilling its potential. What has been the difference the past few years?
“I think it’s just time. All of us are getting comfortable playing with one another. Before, we had Marcus (Camby) in the 5 spot. It was me and Marcus on the court together a lot.
But now Nene is in the starting role. Me and him spend a lot of time on the court together, so we have to build that chemistry.
I think, our frontline is one of the best in the league. Hands down.”
When push comes to shove in the middle of a game, who is the emotional leader of the team?
I think myself.
Yeah, I look at my self as that. Try to motivate the guys. Try to get guys to do the right things.
I try to lead by example first and foremost. I always play the same way every time I take the court.
I don’t pick games where…oh I’m going to play hard this game or I’m playing this guy this day so I’m going to play this way. I don’t do that. I treat everybody the same.
Assessing the Celtics…
“There’s talk in the media that they’re getting old or whatever with Kevin. They’re still good. They still got a good team. They got a great coach in Doc. He does an excellent job of getting those guys to play.
I think they made some moves to help them by getting Michael Finley, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson. So they’re still a team to reckon with.
Everybody tries to write them off. They just won the championship two years ago. That isn’t too far removed.”
So you don’t think they might be getting a bit too old for it?
“I don’t think so. They got…what…Ray is 34? 35?” (He is 34. He will be 35 in July.)
Celtics Central: and he’s in the best shape of all of them.
“Paul is 33. (He’s actually 32). I think KG might be 34 (He will be in May.)?
You look at us. I think Chauncey is 33. I’m 32. I’ll be 33 this year. A.C. (Anthony Carter) is 34.
(small laughter.) See what I’m saying?”
Celtics Central: Could say the same thing about you guys (laughing)
It was said with some lightheartedness. But it does bring out a point. No one is a saying the Nuggets are too old. But their star player is 26 years old and is healthy. And yes, that makes a difference.
“It comes down to injury and… things like that.
People try to write you off or if you lose a few games in a row. That’s what people do in this league.
Everybody has an opinion. But everybody doesn’t know what everybody goes through in order to try to play.”
I would have to agree. You can say a lot about NBA players, good or bad, but if you saw how much many of them go through in order to play every night, you would be surprised, if not amazed. More knees and elbows are iced than at a hockey game. And the media doesn’t even see most of the pre and post game ‘therapy’ for the players.
K-Mart’s own observation lends some credence to the theory that suggests Garnett may have returned too soon.
“I’ve watched KG a few times and I’m like…he’s just trying to gut it out. He’s not ready yet but…he’s stuck it out. That’s why he’s somebody’s trying to get this team…to go out and lead by example and get the rest of them guys to see…if I’m hurt playing this way, then you guys need to pick it up.
There’s a respect factor going on. But they’re a damn good team still.”
Paul Pierce recently admitted that he may have pushed coming back too soon himself. Garnett is a warrior like no other. But he’s not getting any younger either.
But they both feel so much was/is at stake. As it is, they won’t have home court through out.
KG’s play of late has been encouraging. He is looking better, more often. So has Pierce’s play improved. What each of them has gone through just to play every night and perhaps are still going deserves admiration and is inspiring.
From a distance, Kenyon Martin sees the leadership and sacrifice of Kevin Garnett. Martin understands that he himself is not so young anymore. He will rest as much as possible before seeing how much he can contribute come playoff time.
As Kevin Garnett is the Celtics’ emotional leader, so is Kenyon Martin to the Nuggets.
They are both still damn good teams. Both teams have a ‘puncher’s chance’ at a title with everyone healthy.
Garnett wants to get in as good a shape as he can for the playoffs.
Kenyon Martin is just waiting to get back in the ring at this point. When he does, the Nuggets emotional leader will make them a better ball club.
Without Kenyon Martin, Denver’s title hopes are history.