Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

November 7, 2009
The soft spot: Discussing Kevin Martin's reputation

Let's go in reverse order here.

While much of today's story focused on Kings' commentator and KHTK personality Grant Napear, the topic remains Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin and the question of whether or not he is soft or injury prone. It should be plainly obvious that I stop at the latter and don't see him as the former for a host of reasons, not the least of which is an in-depth knowledge of the injuries he has endured that hasn't always been portrayed publicly.

There's a long conversation from that point on, too, with not nearly enough focus on the fact that Martin's own game - specifically, his ability and willingness to attack the rim and get to the free throw line at a ridiculous rate (second in the league last season in attempts at 10.3 per game and behind some cupcake named Dwight Howard) - contradicts this image. But in the interest of fairness, I wanted to share more of Napear's comments on the matter before quickly delving into the thoughts of Kings coach Paul Westphal, former Kings guard Bobby Jackson, Kings swingman Francisco Garcia and Martin himself.

And while the content of Wednesday's show with Napear and Mike Lamb is a tiny part of this equation, I figured I'd share their discussion on toughness as well (audio provided by KHTK). It's about five minutes into this hour of the show...

KHTK Sportsline/11-4

Napear (via cell phone from Utah)

Before we get into the direct quotes, Grant's overall point was two-fold: he thinks players should play if they can play (yet didn't answer my question about what qualifies him to determine when a player can play) and believes that the Kings' draft-night focus on acquiring tougher players was an indictment of all previous players, Martin included.

"I've learned over the last 20 years doing this I'm not surprised any comments I get. I've gone through it Bobby (Jackson), (Chris) Webber. A lot of times guys are listening second hand, or to what a caller says, and then it reflects on me.
"Chris and I talked on numerous occasions. Bobby approached me and we've talked. I'm in a difficult position here. I have to give my opinions on the radio. The first hour (of Wednesday's show) he was getting killed by callers. I said he may play tonight, it's not right to criticize when he might play.
"It really boils down to this. This is my opinion. This is Grant Napear. I was raised (to believe) you play until your going to do damage to your body. We're in a depressed economy, and these fans deserve to see these players play. Players have sat when they could've played. That bothers me. Now hen a guy has a broken bone in his body, that's a different story.
"I never questioned (Martin's) heart. All I said is if a player can play, he should play. There's nothing wrong with me making an opinion as long as it's an opinion based on how I feel. I went out of my way again on Wednesday (to defend Martin). I said he should play unless he's going to do further damage."

Asked outright if he believes Martin is soft...

"The label soft means different things to different people. We were a soft team (last season). When a team is scoring uncontested layups night after night, personally I look at that as a soft team. I have a problem with an athlete, and I'll use Ron (Artest) as an example, who will never be called soft but who didn't play how many times because he decided he didn't want to play...I don't change my stance on (Martin and his ankle injury last season) at all. If a player can play, I think they should play.

"I've been doing this 20 years, and I've seen a lot of players who can play in a game not play. If he feels that way, I wish he would have come to me. It's all about the fans. They pay money to see the guys play. I don't take anything back that I said."

JACKSON

Bobby was a crackup on this topic. While he and Napear are friendly again despite their 2004 run-in (read story if you don't know that part), he said the two support each other now and "attend each other's events" etc. Nonetheless, he was so intrigued by this topic he was offering advice on the reporting.

"If I was writing a story about him, I would want to know what makes him tick, why he says the (expletive) he says," Jackson said. "Especially when we're under the same roof. When I listen to other radio stations, it's like praising, praising, praising (of the players).

"Where does he come up with these questions and analogies of players being soft, who don't want to play, doesn't have heart? The only person who knows is the player.

"The most disturbing thing about it is that it's one of the Kings guys. Maybe can you respect him because he speaks what comes to his mind. Yeah, but me as a person if you're working for this organization, I think the best interests is to look out for the players and speak more positive than negative."

On in-house folks questioning Martin - and Jackson before him - for not playing...

"Of course the coaches, the GMs, the owners, they want us to play, not thinking about what it really is that we're going through and not taking into mind what we're going through and don't look at the outcome. People can say whatever they want about me, but until you've walked in my shoes and did what I've done, then you can't say anything. I don't know where it's coming from.

"We've got to do what's best for us. We have a short amount of time to play this game, so I know most of these guys in here and I know they're going to play their (butt) off. The softness (reputation) comes with not winning games. That's where that comes from.

"If (Napear) keeps doing it and then he tries to come up in people's faces, guys aren't going to talk to him. He's killing him on the low. They've let him do that for so long. Nobody from upstairs has said anything to him. He's been able to do that for so long, been able to rub people the wrong way and rub the players the wrong way because he doesn't have to interact with the players. He just sees them on the plane...Until somebody calls him out and says, 'Who do you work for? Do you work for the Golden State Warriors?'

"I wasn't alone (in his dislike of the way Napear handled his job). There were a lot of guys who felt that way. Yeah, I think a lot of guys have that feeling towards him because of the stuff he's doing now. The guy's is hurt. He played on a broken wrist.
"It's a sensitive subject. I know Kevin loves the game. I know he wants to compete. I know he wants to play every day. You see the numbers he puts up when he's on the court, and that's all you can judge him by is his productivity when he gets on the court.
"The people who haven't played don't understand. If they had played, they wouldn't say the stuff that they say."

WESTPHAL

The coach has obviously only been around Martin for a short time, but he weighed in the experiences he has had thus far.

"My experience is that he's anything but soft. There's a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. When you're injured, you can't play. When you have a sore something or other, and you're walking around acting like you're on your deathbed, that's one thing. But that's not Kevin. When you have injuries and the doctors say you can't play., that's being injured. Anybody that doesn't understand that, I can't help them."

GARCIA

The fifth-year Kings swingman has obviously been teammates with Martin for his entire career. And now, they'll be banged up bosom buddies for the foreseeable future...

"I got words for that (the notion of Martin of being soft). You calling him soft, he played with a broken hand. You can't call him soft. He played with a broken hand and had 30 (29 points against Atlanta Wednesday). He didn't have to play. The doctor just told him you'd be crazy if you played with that.
"Kevin's tough. We're just so little (he and Martin) we get bumped and we (get hurt). You could see that last game, he put tape around his wrist and played like that. There's nothing soft about that."

On why he thinks so many fans and, obviously, some media are down on Martin...

"It just comes with the territory. When the team is bad, they go to the best player. It just falls on Kevin. It's not his fault. He works hard, he's on top of his game right now like everybody sees. He played with his ankle last year. I was mad about (the criticism of Martin for his ankle) because when I was on the floor he'd come up to me and say, 'It bothers me but we're going to win this game.' I don't question his toughness. I'm the kind of player that if I think you're lying I'll let you know, but I never thought he was lying."

MARTIN

Oh yeah, him.

As for the injury itself, Martin had the option of putting a cast on his wrist (and most of his arm) or doing surgery. From what I'm told, the surgery is the better option for two reasons...

1) You avoid the atrophy that comes with a cast.

2) You can rehab and do some basketball activities (just not playing) within approximately two weeks of having surgery as opposed to waiting eight weeks until the recovery begins. It's a quicker way of getting back out on the floor.

"I thought you could play through that pain and get it (fixed) at the end of the season, but the specialist said that if you try to play we're going to come and tie you down and not let you go out there," Martin said. "Just because you develop a lot of other things in your wrists - arthritis, cysts, and things like that. Their recommendation was, 'you're not playing.'
"The thing they tried to say to me this morning was you can trade in 20 games, not risk it, and have another 10 years of your career instead of playing 20 games and then you can really mess it up and then it's a long process. I've got to go through 20 games, hopefully that's it." - Sam Amick



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