MINNEAPOLIS – When it became clear to Kevin Martin that returning to Oklahoma City wasn’t an option, one of his first thoughts was to reunite with Rick Adelman, the coach who got him started in the NBA in Sacramento and later helped him become an offensive force in Houston.
As much as Martin wanted to play for Adelman, who will begin his third season as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves in October, it still wasn’t exactly clear to him if the desire to get back together was mutual. Adelman is one of the most accomplished coaches in the game, and also one of the hardest to read. He rarely shows much emotion and is known as much for a curmudgeonly demeanor as he is for his famed corner offense.
That question was emphatically answered when Martin came to Minnesota in July to sign a four-year deal that will pay him nearly $28 million.
”He gave me a hug,” Martin remembered on Monday at his introductory press conference. ”As we all know Rick, he’s not the guy to do anything like that, so that’s when it kind of hit the stamp on my decision.”
Martin played for Adelman during his first two seasons in the league with the Kings, and then spent two more years with him in Houston. In their final season together, Martin averaged 23.5 points, shot 38 percent on 3-pointers and attempted more than seven free throws a game for the Rockets. When Adelman left, Martin didn’t fit in with new coach Kevin McHale’s system, and he averaged 14 points per game last year in a supporting role with the Thunder.
Now back under Adelman’s tutelage, and playing for a team that desperately needs more scoring punch in the backcourt, Martin is ready to resume his role as a go-to scorer.
New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders made adding size and 3-point range at shooting guard his biggest priorities, and it didn’t take long for him to zero in on Martin after having discussions with O.J. Mayo and J.J. Redick as well. Martin shot a career-high 42.6 percent from 3-point range last season and knows Adelman’s offense – built on an intricate web of passing and cutting without the ball – as well as anyone.
Saunders said Monday that they were looking for a guy who could give them 17-18 points a game at the spot next season after years of dealing with underperformance at that position.
”I have no pressure doing that,” Martin said. ”I feel I can do that in my sleep.”
Martin said it will be a challenge to get back to the 23.5 he averaged in Houston in 2010-11, but he is shooting for 22 per game. If the Wolves get that kind of production to go with Ricky Rubio, the healthy return of Kevin Love and the anticipated re-signing of restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic, their first playoff berth since 2004 could be well within reach.
As much as Saunders is looking forward to Martin’s production on the court, he is also anxious to see the impact of his presence in a young locker room. The 30-year-old is entering his 10th season and has built a reputation as a hard worker and good locker room guy. Martin has already reached out to first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad, who was kicked out of the NBA’s rookie transition program last week for violating event rules by bringing a woman to his hotel room.
Saunders said the team won’t impose any more discipline on Muhammad, who will have to attend the program again next year.
”The biggest thing in any situation where there are rules and guidelines, you have to abide by them,” Saunders said. ”That shows discipline. As I explained to him, part of being successful at our level is being disciplined, both on and off the court.”
For now, Martin is headed back to Florida to start a six-week training program with longtime trainer David Thorpe and several other NBA players, including new teammate Corey Brewer. He knows that if he wants to play bigger minutes and have bigger responsibilities at his age, he can’t afford to take any short cuts.
”I’m hungry for it,” he said.
NOTES: Saunders has been granted permission by the Washington Wizards to talk to assistant GM Milt Newton about a position in the Timberwolves’ front office. … F Robbie Hummel, G Othyus Jeffers and G Lorenzo Brown have received invites to training camp, Saunders said.