The New York Knicks are currently riding a five-game winning streak, revamping confidence in the team once again this season. It’s been an up and down roller-coaster for these Knicks, and just over a week ago they seemed to be hitting rock bottom with a four-game losing streak. Questions of how Carmelo Anthony would perform after getting his knee drained mixed with the fact Tyson Chandler has been forced to miss time with a bulging disc in his neck, had Knicks fans torn on how the rest of the season could eventually play out.
Since the Knicks recent concerns have grown rapidly, the team has come together to prove they have the backbone to be a championship contender. The Knicks have executed this current five-game winning streak that has bolted them past the Indiana Pacers for the second seed in the East, without the heart and soul of their team in Chandler. Fortunately, Kenyon Martin has filled that role with near perfection.
With Anthony continuing to play the game the way we all know he is capable of, combined with the torrid shooting of JR Smith, the Knicks seemed to have regained their offensive identity. However, Martin’s energy on both the defensive and offensive end of the court has given the Knicks an edge that no one belived they could obtain with Chandler recovering from injury. I believe the Knicks have found a free agent gem in Martin, and although he is 35-years-old, why does that mean he can’t produce?
Martin is a former All-Star, and once was one of the most important players alongside Jason Kidd when the Nets reached the NBA Finals in the early 2000′s. The recent display of Martin’s put-back dunks and constant slashing to the rim has invigorated this team surprisingly on the offensive end of the court. When you couple that aspect of his game with his defensive tenacity next to Chandler when he returns, the Knicks can be scary.
Formerly a rough, no-nonsense player, Martin once drew comparisons to one of the greatest hustle players in NBA history, Dennis Rodman. Although he has kept that hard-nose mentality on the court, Martin’s found a new, more humble attitude when it comes to the game of basketball today, as he explained to the New York Media when he first came on the scene.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to be here,” said Martin. “I’m humbled, I’m blessed. Most of all, I get to play basketball again,” continued Martin.
This new light that Martin has experienced, was triggered by the fact no NBA teams had picked up the phone to call for more then half of the season. He is on a mission to show 31 the teams that passed on his services they made a crucial mistake. After only clocking under five minutes on one of his first six games as a Knick, we wondered why the Knicks continued to stock pile the old-timers on the roster. Finally, Martin was rewarded his chance to fill a vital void when Chandler went down.
In the seven games Chandler has missed, Martin is averaging around 28 minutes per game, 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks, holding down the paint with confidence. During that span, the Knicks are 5-2, not missing a beat without Chandler.
We are very quick to judge any Knicks player on the roster that’s, well, what we consider “old,” but as a big man in this league, we should cut Martin a break. Rebuilding team’s don’t look to sign older players like Martin, and many championship contenders already have their lineups etched in stone, limiting Martin’s chances to be productive in this league, but it does not mean he’s lost his game entirely.
Big men in their mid to late 30′s have proven to be capable of producing at a high level, with top notch examples like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki still dominating the league. Martin is certainly not the caliber of player that those guys are, but he is healthy, and appears to be determined to play the game of basketball with as much heart as he ever has. The team and organization should be excited about this new found energy from K-Mart, as teams will learn to fear the new found inside presence of the New York Knicks .