- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Executives around the league are probably kicking themselves after watching what Kenyon Martin did Saturday night.
Martin had 18 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two monster dunks to key the Knicks' 110-84 win over Toronto.
In doing so, Martin, the same guy the Knicks signed off of his couch in late February, willed the team to their fourth straight win.
Remember, any other club in the league could have signed Martin. But no one came calling.
So now, Martin's in a Knicks uniform, filling in for the injured Tyson Chandler at center. And the Knicks, surprisingly, have barely missed a beat with Chandler out.
"I'm just glad he's in a Knick uniform, that's all I can tell you," head coach Mike Woodson said of Martin.
Who knows where New York would be without K-Mart?
The Knicks are 4-2 since he was inserted into the starting lineup after Chandler went down with a knee/neck injury. In his last five games, Martin's averaged 11 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes.
More importantly, he's given the Knicks gritty defense around the rim and is versatile enough to guard multiple positions, which improves their dreadful pick-and-roll defense. He's also constantly communicating on the defensive end.
"Everything he does is so sure and aggressive," Iman Shumpert said.
The proof is in the numbers: when Martin's on the floor, the Knicks are giving up 99.5 points per 100 possessions, which would rank fifth in the NBA. When he's off the floor, they're giving up 103.3, which would put them 17th.
"He's a great defender," Raymond Felton said. "That's what he does."
Martin, 35, has also filled the schism left by Amar'e Stoudemire's absence.
He's adept at cleaning up around the rim, he can score off the pick-and-roll and runs the floor well. The only thing missing is a post game.
"How smart he is on the defensive end, how hard he plays, his effort," Carmelo Anthony said, "you can’t teach that."
Martin was the one doing the teaching on Saturday. It started early in the first quarter, when Shumpert found K-Mart on a beautiful drive and dish for an emphatic slam.
Late in the second quarter, Martin had a thunderous putback dunk off of Anthony's miss. He jumped right over Toronto big man Jonas Valanciunas and celebrated by screaming and flexing his arms, looking like a first-year player rather than a guy who has 12 years in the league.
"Just trying to provide more energy than they're used to seeing," said Martin, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Friday's win over the Raptors. "Just doing what I do, man."
With that sequence, Martin seemed to send a message to the 29 teams that forgot his number when he was a free agent earlier this season.
"I just want people to know that I still can play the game of basketball," Martin said. "I wasn't the No. 1 pick for nothing. I didn't stick around for 12 years for nothing. So just letting people know that I'm still here and hopefully I'm going to be around."
Martin said he'd "love" to be back with the Knicks next season. For now, he's focused on the present.
If and when Chandler returns from his mysterious neck injury, Woodson has said that K-Mart will return to the bench.
"That's cool, that's fine," Martin said. "I just want [Woodson] to know that I still can play and he can count on me no matter what."
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
17dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford