Updated: April 24, 2013, 2:34 AM ET

1. Martin Move Paying Dividends For Knicks

By Brian Windhorst | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- In early January, the New York Knicks knew they had a problem.

Rasheed Wallace had a bad foot injury, so bad that team doctors were reasonably convinced he was done for the season. The Knicks were going to give him the chance to rehab in the long shot that he could heal (he never did) and they'd lost a guy who had surprisingly been a highly valuable defensive big man and enforcer.

Meanwhile, they were dealing with a suspension of Carmelo Anthony because Boston Celtics' rival Kevin Garnett had gotten under his skin so intensely in a game at Madison Square Garden that Anthony had inexplicably gone to confront him at the team bus.

Knicks owner James Dolan was so incensed that he ordered high-powered microphones to the sidelines because he thought, in a bizarre schoolmarm maneuver, it was a way to protect Anthony from those who might trash talk him. The Knicks needed more than technology to protect Anthony, though. They needed a player like Wallace.

It was then the Knicks began the process of acquiring Kenyon Martin, who'd gotten such a bad rep for being difficult to deal with an unaccepting of a role over his previous few seasons that he'd apparently been deemed unemployable, even at a minimum salary across the league.

That included the Celtics, who passed on Martin several times even though they too were looking for their own veteran big man to play key late-season minutes.

"It was never about basketball," Martin said. "(The Celtics) might be kicking themselves now."

Boston Celtics
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Celtics haven't had an answer at MSG.

If Martin still had something left, the Knicks pondered, maybe Garnett couldn't get away with bullying their star. Plenty of things could be said and had been said about Martin, but him being soft or not willing to step to the aid of a teammate was not one of them.

With Martin, the Knicks considered, they might get lucky and get a player no one else wanted who could help them in a playoff game or two. And play some of the role Wallace had in their excellent start to the season in November and December.

It took a while. They had to give Martin and his troublesome knee a good look, they had to investigate the trade market and then clear a roster spot, which took until February. Mostly, general manager Glen Grunwald had to vet Martin and talk the move over with his coaching staff and players. But finally, within hours of trading Ronnie Brewer to the Oklahoma City Thunder on deadline day, Martin had a job.

All of that is now relevant because of the impact Martin is having on the series with the Celtics. Neither Garnett nor any of his teammates are pushing the Knicks around. The Knicks are winning the physical aspect, an area the Celtics usually dominate come playoff time, and they are getting a major lift from Martin.

In Tuesday's 87-71 Game 2 win, Martin had 11 rebounds and four blocks in a masterpiece defensive performance. He had all the blocks and seven of the rebounds in the second half, when the Knicks shoved the Celtics out of their offense and held them to 19 percent shooting. That, by the way, is correct; 19 percent in a half.

Martin's ability to defend the rim has proven vital so far in the series. Not just in the support role he was signed for, but because Knicks defensive anchor Tyson Chandler is dealing with a neck injury. Chandler, who also recently had a knee issue, says he's fine but clearly is not moving well and coach Mike Woodson has had no choice but to slash his playing time in favor of Martin.

The Celtics, who are wheezing offensively without a true point guard to rely on, keep running into Martin at the rim. He's able to switch out and defend guards in the Knicks' unusual pick-and-roll schemes. He can deal with Garnett at center or whenever the Celtics go small with their variety of forward options.

And the value of Martin's midseason addition continues to grow.

"He has been great," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Martin. "Every time they bring in a guy (from the bench) he gets older and older and better and better. He's smart and playing great."

Boston has managed just 48 points combined in the second half in the two games in the series. The Knicks are flicking at the Celtics' weakness by applying pressure and pushing their offense way out of position.

Tuesday, in-over-his-head fill-in Jordan Crawford was starting plays while standing on the midcourt logo and Paul Pierce, who has made a career of operating at the elbow, was catching the ball beyond the 3-point line. Mired in foul trouble, Garnett was barely an option.

Martin will not play this way every night in the playoffs. Garnett may get the better of him a time or two before it's done. Anthony, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton will need to do the heavy lifting. Chandler will probably need to recover at least a little and playing more of his standard role for the Knicks to maximize their potential.

But the Knicks got Martin at the NBA equivalent of a roadside market at the end of the harvest. And he's helping them win playoff games. This is not a frequent occurrence at this level, needless to say. But it's one of the reasons the Knicks are ahead 2-0 with thoughts on much bigger accomplishments.

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