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Tales from the Drought: Kevin Martin, the first great hope

In our new series, we'll revisit great players or great moments that got lost in the losing.
By | 42 Comments | Aug 1, 2022

Credit: Wiki Commons

So often when we look back with our purple-colored glasses it’s to remember the golden years when the Kings were the Greatest Show On Court. But you can only look back so often at those times, and I thought it might be a nice experiment throughout this month when NBA & Kings news tends to be at its slowest to look at some of the best times, moments and players from the last 16 years instead.  You have to take the good with the bad, and even though there’s been plenty of bad, there’s also been just enough good that we’ve managed to stick around this long. So join me, as we and the Kings Herald crew bring you tales from the drought.

Every tale has a beginning, so what more fitting place to start than with the first player the post-Adelman Kings pinned their future hopes on; Kevin Martin, a 6’7 swingman from Zanesville, Ohio who shot the ball from his hip like he was in an old Western movie.

The Kings selected Martin 26th overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, and he didn’t do much his rookie year.  He played just 45 games and only averaged 2.9 points in 10.1 minutes, largely only used in garbage time. But by his second season, he started coming into his own, playing his way into the rotation, shooting and scoring well and eventually becoming a starter as the Kings leaned on him more and more in the post-Chris Webber environment. The highlight of his rookie season came in the playoffs, when he managed to score a layup at the buzzer over Tim freaking Duncan to win the game.

Martin’s third season was even better. He led the team in scoring at 20.2 points a game, and was robbed of the Most Improved Player award, which went to 2nd year player Monta Ellis instead.  It’s also at this time that K-Mart figured out how to get to the line and get to the line a ton.  Martin’s unorthodox shooting style led to a lot of reach in fouls as opponents tried to swipe the ball.  Kevin Durant might have perfected it, but Kevin Martin was the founder of the rip through move.  Kevin was so good at drawing fouls that on March 17th, 2007 he scored 20 points while making just one field goal attempt.  Martin wasn’t just a shooter though. He was incredibly quick and crafty, and had more hops than you think leading to some highlight worthy dunks.

Unfortunately for Martin, the Kings were getting worse even as he was getting better.  The aging core of years past was being traded for scraps, Ron Artest wanted out and the Kings were looking to rebuild for good instead of simply retooling.  Martin was supposed to be the centerpiece. At just 24 years old, he was one of the most efficient players in the entire NBA, despite being nearly the sole focus of opposing teams. In 2009, Martin became just the second Kings player ever to score 50 points in a memorable duel with Monta Ellis in Oakland.

If not for some nagging and unfortunate injuries, who knows what might have happened with Kevin Martin. A fluke wrist injury in 2010 cost him a couple months, and by the time he came back, it was clear this was now rookie Tyreke Evans’ team. I still would have liked to see how Evans and Martin would have worked long term, but for Martin it was time to go. The Kings agreed, sending him to Houston in a deal that brought back Carl Landry and reunited Martin with Rick Adelman.

In many ways, Martin was a preview of what was to come in the NBA: a deadly three point shooter, who could score on and off the ball and valued getting to the line.  Martin may not have had the notoriety or appreciation he deserved by the larger NBA fanbase due to his placement in Sacramento, but Kings fans should forever remember his time in Sacramento fondly.

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Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
August 1, 2022 8:05 am

Its easy to forget how good K-Mart was for a few of those seasons. During has last two full seasons with the Kings he averaged 23 PPG and and 40% from 3 then 24 PPG and shot 41% from 3. No joke, those are All-Star numbers, and he likely would have been on if not on the Kings.

The dude put up the same numbers as Klay Thompson does, but never had the facilitator or gravity of the likes of Curry. K-Mart was just born a decade too early.

I still proudly own his jersey.

macdoogs
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August 1, 2022 11:10 am
Reply to  Adamsite

He would have been Houston Harden in this nba. More mid range than 3s but I think with the green light he could have averaged 30 at least once

Greg
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August 1, 2022 8:14 am

KMart is the guy who first helped me understand efficiency numbers and how they differed from FG%. He’d have games where he was like 2-8 but still had great scoring because the misses were still getting him to the line.

Towards the end I felt he had a tendency to hunt for fouls at the expense of trying to actually make the shot, and that was especially annoying when he wouldn’t get the call. Nonetheless, still a player that I loved rooting for and I still have his jersey around here somewhere.

nonstripedzebra
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August 1, 2022 8:14 am

A very interesting player and one of many after the post glory years that missed the generation best suited for his game marginally. Hindsight is pretty interesting on those teams and players. K Mart first and foremost but Petrie definitely seemed to flirt with pace and space and generally offensive firsts players more than most of the time. Garcia even Thornton along with Martin definitely would have been more praised in a different era. Issues always came in utilizing assets overpaying but the talent evaluations of those teams I think deserve a second look.

Martin though was a serene and smooth player. I always thought underrated even in his day, let alone now. And also a testament to hard work. Have heard myriad of stories he was a real craftsman. Even if in the wrong era made more of his career than anyone realistically could have expected.

Last edited 1 year ago by nonstripedzebra
Klam
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August 1, 2022 8:26 am

Loved watching K-Mart during his time as a King (okay, I might be slightly biased since we both share the same first name). One of my favorite games I watched on TV was in the 2007-08 season up in Seattle, where Kevin made two clutch plays to win a close game; one was when there was one second left on the shot clock and Martin got pass from the back sideline to get a quick put-up shot at the hoop, and the other was the game winner where Seattle just tied the game with a 3-pointer with like 5 seconds left, and Kevin dribbled the ball all the way down the court and took a shot at the buzzer to win the game.

It’s unfortunate he got injured and didn’t have a lot of help around him. Would have loved to have seen what more he could’ve done.

King4life
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August 1, 2022 8:32 am

It still annoys me how little the Kings got back for Kevin Martin (and Ron Artest) when K-Mart became one of the main pieces in the Harden trade.

Geoff Petrie was flat out awful as a GM during the tear down/initial rebuild.

Sacto_J
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August 1, 2022 3:50 pm
Reply to  King4life

I’m pretty sure Petrie was fairly well handcuffed in the amount of salary he was allowed to spend / take on at that point. I don’t fault Petrie for much once the Maloofs’ money started vaporizing. Their primary goal at that point was to find a return on their investments, whether that meant selling the team to a hungry ownership group in Virginia Beach, liquidating the beverage distribution company that was the foundation of their wealth in the first place, or propping up an overwhelmed player for rookie of the year consideration to generate jersey / ticket sales. As much issue as I have with Vivek, the Maloofs were so much worse when they tried to put their imprint on the team.

Bill2455
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August 1, 2022 7:59 pm
Reply to  Sacto_J

Maloofs took 1NBA franchises to the finals and another to the brink.

Vivek has 0 and none realistically in sight.

i like facts.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill2455
Sacto_J
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August 2, 2022 2:00 pm
Reply to  Bill2455

I don’t know much about the Maloof’s run in Houston, but am fairly certain that was the father, not the 3 stooges we got in Sac.
So the score is George & Co. – 0
Vivek – 0

rockbottom
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August 1, 2022 9:13 pm
Reply to  Sacto_J

Maloofs had success in both Houston and Sac. Vivek none , so explain criteria .

Sacto_J
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August 2, 2022 2:00 pm
Reply to  rockbottom

Read my comment again, I guess…

markdog333
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August 3, 2022 8:52 am
Reply to  Sacto_J

How about the Maloofs had more success than the Ranadives?

Also, it depends on your criteria of success I guess. The Maloofs had some success on the basketball side while most of the Ranadive’s success has been on the business side so far.

Also, while Petrie was handcuffed by finances, I am sure he also would like to take a few mulligans on the moves he did make.

RikSmits
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August 1, 2022 9:08 am

It’s really nice that you guys go at such lengths to educate Brenden “Let’s call Keegan Murray K-9” Nunes.

andy_sims
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August 1, 2022 9:16 am

The Buckeye had a beautiful game, truly. Smooth and fluid, but also explosive when it needed to be.

I don’t know how he’s viewed in general, but I don’t think that I’m overstating it when I suggest that he’s incredibly underrated.

TheRaven
August 1, 2022 9:53 am

The Kevin Martin era was definitely an interesting time. He came in after the glory days but when the team still had a winning rep and was trying to retool without a full rebuild. His era began before “Maloofs” became one of the most hated names in Sacramento and he left a few years before it ended.

It was also at the start of internet NBA Draft nerdery and analytics. Jonathan Givony of draftexpress managed to get access to a pre-draft workout and take video of it. K-Mart looked really good in the workout when hardly anyone outside of scouting circles knew who he was before that or had him as a 1st rounder.

TerzoM
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August 1, 2022 10:14 am

comment image

NinjaFetus
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August 1, 2022 10:37 am

That buzzer-beater over Duncan was amazing, watching Adelman fist-pumping on the sideline while Pop was stunned. Almost missed watching it live, my now wife forced me to go out but the place we went luckily had a tv with the game on. I think I nearly jumped out of my seat celebrating.

Martin’s face needs to be by the word efficiency in the dictionary for shooting. Also was pretty cool to see this what looked to be scrawny bean stock of a player become one of the best shooters at that time. As Adam said above, he should’ve been a multiple All-Star and it’s a shame the Kings couldn’t find a way to make it work even somewhat while he was here. I enjoyed watching him on the Rockets though, thought they were fun before the Harden/Paul combo.

Last edited 1 year ago by NinjaFetus
macdoogs
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August 1, 2022 11:08 am

J-Will and C-Webb were the players who made me fall in love with this team but man, prime K-Mart might be my favorite King of all time. After the glory years he was our hope/star. I was amazed at how well he drew fouls and lived at the line. That 50 point game highlight brought me back too! So many players from the early 2000s would have been household names in this generation

Kosta
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August 1, 2022 11:23 am

For Will:

comment image

Klam
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August 1, 2022 11:53 am
Reply to  Kosta

Also for Will:
comment image

Sacto_J
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August 1, 2022 3:51 pm
Reply to  Kosta

Lame

UpgradedToQuestionable
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August 1, 2022 11:40 am

My recollections of Kevin Martin was how much of a gentleman and Ambassador of good will he was. He was dealt with poorly during the 20-5-5 year becoming somewhat of an outcast by the Maloofs as they hit the financial skids and tried to be involved in promoting their vision of the team (not renewing Adelman, overpromoting Tyreke for ROY, drafting Jimmer, etc.)

Funny shooting motion but dude could sink it. I put him in the Top 4 “Pure Shooter” Kings. (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Brent Price are above him, add Peja Stojakovic to round out the quartet)

*This is a great additive feature to help move the duldrum days of Summer along. Thanks TKH!*

Last edited 1 year ago by UpgradedToQuestionable
UpgradedToQuestionable
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August 1, 2022 12:40 pm
  1. It should also be mentioned (maybe it has and I didn’t see it) – that Kevin Martin played for the Western Carolina Catamounts (a medium-sized or large wild cat, especially a cougar).

In his 3rd season, the top 6 scorers for Sacramento were Kevin Martin (23.7 ppg), Ron Artest, Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, Beno Udrih and John Salmons (in that order). Martin was the 12th highest paid player on the team that season, on his rookie deal at $1.8M. (2007-2008, Coached by Reggie Theus 38-44).

alec26
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August 1, 2022 12:02 pm

Picked #26 in the draft. A great late first round success. Unfortunately, three years into his career and the start of the Kings slow implode he was asked to be the man and that was over his pay grade. Today, he could fill Kevin Huerter’s spot, maybe a better player than Huerter. He’d be a good player on a promising team rather than the best player on a desperate team. The Kings are in a much better situation now than they were in 2007-2008.

Kingsguru21
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August 1, 2022 2:00 pm

Just looked at Sir Speedracer’s career earnings on B Ref. It’s a tad over 83M. Which, you know, isn’t as low as I thought.

I never thought of him as a precursor to this era, but he certainly was that. I still have his jersey, of course, but I don’t wear it. Something about it makes me sad.

A fun guy to watch though.

andy_sims
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August 1, 2022 2:09 pm

Did you know…?

Kevin Martin was the leading points per game scorer for the 2004 draft class?

Well, he was.

Adamsite
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August 1, 2022 2:47 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Also 2nd in 3PT%, 5th in BPM, and 6th in WS, and 7th in VORP. The dude would be a top 5 pick if you could redraft the 2004 class. Apart from IT taken at #60 in 2011, K-Mart was Petrie’s last great value pick.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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August 1, 2022 3:33 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Career 87% FT, 38.4% 3FG

Kingsguru21
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August 1, 2022 7:51 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Just imagine how good he would have been, Adam, if he played 75 games at his peak.

I honestly would have loved to see Speedracer and Swipa as a backcourt. That would have been something.

Adamsite
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August 1, 2022 8:11 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Imagine how good he could have been if he weren’t the best player on the team. I love K-Mart, but he should have never been the alpha.

His last full season with the Kings (08-09) he shared the court with Salmons, Miller, Udrich, and Jason Thompson. It’s no wonder they won only 17 games.

Just imagine a player like K-Mart on the court with Fox and Sabonis. It would have been grand! Here’s hoping Monk and Huerter can fulfill some of that dream.

GFunkClassic
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August 1, 2022 11:12 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

This kinda seems like a walk back from your original comment, that’s first on the board. This is how I’ve always viewed Martin. Not as an All-Star but as a role player in the 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th spots.

Adamsite
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August 2, 2022 7:32 am
Reply to  GFunkClassic

I guess I should clarify that not all all-stars are alphas. Just as an example, Klay Thompson isn’t an alpha. Don’t get me wrong, K-Mart was an excellent player, but when you have him as your best player and surround him below average role players, you are not going to win many games.

In some ways the situation reminds a bit of Mitch Richmond. Mitch was the far better player and deserving all-str, but his skills often got over looked (especially in the national media) because of the team he was on. His teams suffered in the win column because of surrounding talent.

aplumley
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August 1, 2022 2:45 pm

I liked Kevin Martin, but was a bit off put when he defaulted on his home loan while making $11M per year. I know this is nit picky in terms of professional sports moral standards, but this is a welfare for the rich scenario that bothered me at the time, when I was upside down on my house, yet continued to make payments.
From a basketball perspective, trading him was a bad move. And was the first of many short sighted moves that caused this terrible playoff drought.

markdog333
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August 3, 2022 9:23 am
Reply to  aplumley

Speaking of nit picking, I don’t necessarily take issue with someone defaulting on their home loan. To me, a secured loan like that is a business agreement with a clearly defined exit, and sometimes it makes sense to cut your losses. If he did receive some sort of government subsidy in the process of walking way from the loan, I would have an issue with that, but my understanding is that most of that went to the lenders.

I know there are cases where people intentionally defaulted on loans and had a portion of the principle essentially forgiven in the process of refinancing – and other people who tried to follow that game plan and lost their home in the process.

As a person who bought a couple of homes in the early to mid 2000’s, I have a hard time feeling sorry for the lenders. The size of the loans they were trying get me to commit to and the terms just made no mathematical sense, and they would try to sell you by showing you a chart of exponential growth of home prices the past few years. All they cared about was making their closing commissions, and did not like me pointing out that kind of exponential growth is not sustainable.

I better stop before this really becomes a rant.

Sacto_J
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August 1, 2022 4:02 pm

I’ll never forget that buzzer beater. Sort of.
My good friend and I were at the game and with about 5 minutes left to go my buddy got into an altercation with one of the arena security guards. In my buddy’s defense, he was being asked to stay in his seat, while the entire arena was up roaring and cheering the come-back. In the security guard’s defense, my buddy was drunk AF. Anyway, we were “escorted” out of our seats and down to the arena “detention area”. Yes, they had a jail cell at Arco.

Anyway, as we’re signing our documents (my buddy was banned for the rest of the season and we both had to sign release and non-disclosure forms) we start hearing what sounded like an earthquake, but from above. About 20 minutes later we’re escorted out through the player’s entrance, where we mill about, cuz…duh. After another 30 minutes or so my buddy finally asks some gal in a Mazeratti what happened and she tells him; K-Mart hit the game winner over Duncan, what a great game, etc., as Mike Bibby gets in the car, gives us a wave and they drive off.

PlayoffModeT
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August 1, 2022 10:20 pm

Great series and looking forward to the rest! I enjoyed watching K-Mart play as well. I hope the Bayou Bomber is in this series somewhere.

ArcoThunder
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August 1, 2022 10:38 pm
Reply to  PlayoffModeT

Jerry Fuckin Reynolds! You’re the king of Kings nick names. The Bayou Bomber!! Some of his best work.

and Jerry if you’re reading this, please open a barbershop. You know what it should be called.

andy_sims
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August 2, 2022 8:59 am
Reply to  ArcoThunder

The fact of the matter is, Bayou Bomber was mine. I was shocked when I heard Mr. Reynolds say it on television.

GFunkClassic
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August 1, 2022 10:53 pm

I always looked at Martin as a guy whose stats were a product of being on bad teams. He was never going to lead a good team. He needed to be a 3rd or 4th guy on a good team.

satdawg
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August 2, 2022 2:25 am

He was such a great King. I remember he would always back door cut and get so many baskets that way. I wonder what he’s up to these days

Last edited 1 year ago by satdawg
markdog333
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August 3, 2022 9:36 am

I liked his game a lot, and I would have liked to have seen what he and Evans could have done together with more time. Also, I hated that they (Napear?) tried to attach the “soft” label to him on the way out.

NowLoveThemOnceAgain
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August 3, 2022 10:05 pm

I was fortunate enough to catch K-Mart score 35 against the Seattle Supersonics in their building in 2007-08 in what was their last season in Seattle. Durant was early in his career at the time, and Martin smoked him! Pete Carrill took K-Mart under his wing and worked with him on his shot and other mechanics. I remember Grant and Jerry discussing this during games. Ah, that was when the Kings still had realistic hopes of returning to their 2002-2006 glory days. Now you know why I Used to Love The Kings.

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