Bradenton, Fla. - Kevin Martin walked out of a muggy gym at the IMG Academies in Central Florida this afternoon, having swapped his sweat-drenched t-shirt for a crisp and dry replacement.
Another session with his personal coach, David Thorpe, had come to an end, and Martin's saturated state said everything about the work that had been done. The Kings shooting guard has been teaming with Thorpe for offseason workouts for seven years now, beginning when Martin was entering his sophomore season at Western Carolina. After years of hearing about the pivotal role these weeks of workouts played, I decided to see for myself this week.
Because I will have an in-depth story and loads of multimedia material from the trip as the season nears, I won't be spoiling too much of the experience just yet. I will, however, share this: Martin looks ready for the regular season.
Physically, his once-fragile frame took yet another offseason step toward sturdy. His game that already has taken historical steps in terms of statistical progress should be refined, with an emphasis this summer on everything from strengthening his weak hand on the dribble to playing lower to the floor rather than his penchant for staying upright to improving defensive positioning and awareness to finishing with exclamation point dunks more than ever.
Kings assistant Jason Hamm paid a visit to this hoops classroom as well and - like myself - was impressed with the detail, intensity and game-relevance of the workouts. While Martin sometimes works out with the likes of fellow Thorpe clients Tyrus Thomas and Luol Deng of Chicago, the better-known talent this week was NBA D-Leaguer Elton Brown and former NBA player Daniel Santiago (who has been making millions in Europe and is a free agent but has no business not being on an NBA roster with his big-man skills).
While media types (myself included) and fans alike are wondering how Martin will handle the role of being 'The Man' now that Ron Artest is gone, he is taking a somewhat more savvy approach. Between his strong stance in Las Vegas and his shared opinions this week, it's obvious he is welcoming the new personal challenge while expecting more from those around him at the same time.
He made a comparison to the season when Bonzi Wells' injury opened the door of opportunity for him and the huge chance so many of his teammates now have. There is a deaf ear turned to the many prognosticators (myself included) who expect the Kings' playoff-less streak to extend to three seasons and a competitiveness that wants nothing more than to play in late April again. There is the hope that his teammates are in shape come October training camp because a head start can only help.
There was far more working than there was talking this week for Martin, who gave every indication that this will be yet another breakout year. - Sam Amick