Ailene Voisin: Payoff for Martin is just as big for Kings
By Ailene Voisin - Bee Columnist
Last Updated 12:44 am PDT Thursday, August 30, 2007
Story appeared in SPORTS section, Page C6
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Watch a video of the rally celebrating Martin's new five-year contract
Watch a slideshow of the downtown rally
This was the easiest decision of the offseason. There was nothing to debate. There was no reason to ruminate. The minute Kevin Martin committed to the organization -- and he did so immediately after Eric Musselman's ouster -- all the Kings had to do was give him a group hug and a pen.
They needed him, he wanted them. Basketball is a simple game. When the sparks fly, you just kiss and sign.
"This is a team and a community I love," the fourth-year guard said during a news conference Wednesday to announce his signing. "Knowing I'm going to be here for a long time feels good."
Given the misery of the 2006-07 season and Geoff Petrie's inability (thus far) to execute one of his dramatic offseason trades, signing Martin to a five-year extension is the best news to hit the Kings in months. Maybe since the mercurial Musselman changed ZIP codes.
An admitted nester by nature, Martin is someone to cling to, someone with whom to help reshape a franchise. He isn't the franchise player teams covet -- let's not get swept off our feet here -- but if the goal is to spend wisely when dipping into free agency, Martin represents one of the Maloofs' wisest recent investments.
He has all the goods. The game. The attitude. The personality. The professionalism. The work ethic. The common touch with the locals, especially with the youngsters. In an unofficial neighborhood poll, for instance, Martin and Francisco García were the strong favorites of the pre-pubescent set.
But Martin is popular with members of the older generation as well, among them his one-time mentor and former Kings assistant, Pete Carril. In his comments Wednesday, Martin, 24, prominently mentioned the Princeton legend who imparted untold hours of wisdom and knowledge before retiring a year ago to New Jersey.
For the better part of two seasons, the old coach and his young protégé were inseparable, fixtures on the sideline before games and after practices. Carril, teaching, scolding, pushing, encouraging. Martin, listening, questioning, absorbing.
Appropriately, the Kings' newest multimillionaire Wednesday recalled the seminal period of his still-young career -- a stretch midway into his second season when doubts about his NBA future were gaining momentum. Where was the aggressiveness, the desire, the mental toughness? Where was the projected union of quickness, length, athleticism and one quirky, increasingly effective jumper?
"There were times back then when even I wondered," the Zanesville, Ohio, native acknowledged with a wry grin. "But Pete was so important to me. He changed my shot, just told me to be more aggressive, just kept talking to me. I can't thank him enough."
When Bonzi Wells went down with a strained groin weeks later, Martin squared his bony shoulders and stole the job. He dazzled the Arco Arena crowds with spectacular dunks in the open court, curls into the lane, off-balance one-handed floaters and surprising proficiency from the corners and wings. Except for occasional defensive lapses and a tendency to sulk after one of Musselman's inexplicable benchings last season, his progress has followed a steady upward progression.
Of course, it could never be steady enough for the demanding Carril. Contacted at a restaurant Wednesday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., the man known as "Coachie" promptly excused himself and moved to a quieter area to chat.
"I watched every game on TV, and you could see a little disintegration set in with the team," said Carril, "but the guy (Martin) is not going to be part of something like that. He always listened. He always wanted to improve.
"Now, he has to work on his dribbling. That's his flaw, if he's got one. And toughen up a little bit. Just put a little aggression into his game."
"Guys change. Sometimes they change for the worse. But if Kevin takes this (signing) as a symbol of the organization's appreciation of his worth and where they want to go, and he works hard, he can become a great player. Yeah, I think so. I think so."
About the writer:
Reach Ailene Voisin at (916) 321-1208 or avoisin@ sacbee.com. Back columns:www.sacbee.com/voisin.
Re: Bee: Payoff for Martin is just as big for Kings
Geoff used to look for players who did more than play well. He looked for guys whose personality would fit the team, and players with good character. Now, though, he's gone away from that, with the exception of Martin. He didn't re-sign Corliss like I thought he should have. Corliss is a professional who could have taught the younger guys like Williams a thing or two.