It wasn’t all that long ago that the New York Knicks were reeling.
They just came off a tough one-point loss at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder at The Garden and proceeded to lose four straight on a West Coast trip that dropped them to 38-26 on the season. But that’s precisely the moment where everything changed.
It’s no coincidence that’s about the time that Kenyon Martin started getting minutes in Knicks head coach Mike Woodson’s rotation.
K-Mart got his first meaningful minutes of the season in the loss to OKC and was worked into the rotation for a few games after that, but once he got comfortable on the floor, the Knicks took off, finishing the season by winning 16 of their final 18.
For a guy who wasn’t on an NBA roster until the Knicks signed him to a 10-day contract on the day of the NBA Trade Deadline, you have to ask the question of where this Knicks team would be without him?
Martin brought exactly what the Knicks needed at the time- toughness. Until he sprained his ankle late in the season, there were times that K-Mart was the only healthy big man, but it didn’t matter.
His do whatever it takes approach was a big reason they finally were able to tighten up their work on the defensive end of the floor.
But his impact isn’t regulated to the regular season.
Martin is averaging 6.5 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes per game through two postseason games, logging major minutes off the bench as Tyson Chandler attempts to get his conditioning under control.
Martin helped the Knicks finish off the Celtics both times in the fourth quarter, playing pretty much the entire quarter while Chandler sat on the bench. Had I told you a couple months ago that the Knicks would be an outstanding defensive team with Chandler riding the bench, you wouldn’t have believed me. But that’s the type of impact Martin has had.
In Game 1, he stripped Jeff Green down low and then connected on an and-1 layup, which gave the Knicks a 71-70 lead that they would never relinquish. Then in Game 2, he had two big blocks down the stretch.
When he was signed, many just expected Martin to come in and play hard for a few minutes per night if he was lucky.
He’s done so much more than that.
He’s brought smartness and toughness to the Knicks team and somehow at age 35 has resembled a younger K-Mart from years past.
But while doing all of that, he’s done something even more important in the process- saved the Knicks season.
Follow Matt Shetler on Twitter for news, reaction and analysis from around the NBA.