MARTIN GIVES SPURS CHANCE VS. WARRIORS
Veteran scorer closes gap between Western powers
The Golden State Warriors should be nervous — or at least mildly concerned — about the San Antonio Spurs. And no, that’s not a joke. Crazy as it might sound considering the defending champions’ surreal season, the Spurs, already on the Warriors’ heels (55-5 for Golden State vs. 52-9), got even better Friday night by agreeing to sign veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin. The 33-yearold scorer agreed to a buyout with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, then zeroed in on the opportunity to help the Spurs win a sixth title since 1999.
“I appreciate the other teams for inviting me into their organizations,” Martin told USA TODAY Sports in a text message. “But at the end of the day this just felt right!”
Not too long ago Martin was considered one of the most productive and efficient scorers in the game. His career high in
scoring came in the 2010-11 season (23.5 points a game) with the Houston Rockets, and he averaged 19.1 points and 20 points a game, respectively, in the past two seasons with the Timberwolves. In his 12 seasons, he has averaged 17.6 points a game (43.8% shooting overall, 38.5% from three-point range, 87% from the free throw line), 3.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
But in terms of helping an elite team work toward a title, Martin’s 2012-13 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder is the most applicable comparison here: While coming off the bench, Martin averaged 14 points on 45% shooting overall, 42.6% from three-point range and 89% from the line and was a key part of a Thunder team that went 60-22 in the regular season and fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games in the second round. Oklahoma City lost point guard Russell Westbrook just two games into the first round against the Rockets, however, when his collision with point guard Patrick Beverley resulted in a torn meniscus.
The Martin signing isn’t the only Spurs boon of late, as veteran guard Manu Ginobili is expected to return next week after missing amonth because of a testicular injury that required surgery. And if Martin can recapture that form while fitting in with this Kawhi Leonard/LaMarcus Aldridge/Tony Parker/ Tim Duncan/Ginobili-led Spurs group that has the third-best offense in the league (109 points scored per 100 possessions), then even the seemingly unstoppable Warriors might have reason to worry about San Antonio. If they weren’t already.
Despite the level of well-deserved hype surrounding the Warriors, the truth is the Spurs have been winning at a higher clip since Dec. 2.
Despite the level of well-deserved hype surrounding the Warriors, the truth is the Spurs have been winning at a higher clip since Dec. 2 (.884 winning percentage compared to .878) while proving to be the superior defensive team. Not only are the Spurs tops in the NBA when it comes to defending (96.2 points allowed per 100 possessions), but they’re significantly ahead of the fifthrated Warriors (101.6).
In terms of a potential clash of hoops titans in the postseason, the sample size to this point is too small to handicap it. The Warriors dominated the only matchup between the teams so far, winning 120-90 at Oracle Arena on Jan. 25 when San Antonio, playing without Duncan, allowed the Warriors to shoot 51.8% from the field and gave up 37 points to reigning MVP Stephen Curry.
The Warriors and Spurs square off again March 19 at the AT&T Center, followed by an April 7 meeting at Oracle Arena and a final matchup three days later in San Antonio. The race to the title that will ensue from there, it seems clear, might be far more compelling than most might assume.
Kevin Martin has averaged 17.6 points a game for his career.