PHILADELPHIA - We're going for substance over style on this particular blog post, as there is obviously just one topic fans are wondering about tonight: Kevin Martin's return. I have plenty on that at the top here, but would strongly recommend that folks stay tuned until the end of this blog post for video of a comedic shoot-a-round shootoff between Kings swingman Francisco Garcia and assistant coach Mario Elie.
As for Martin, I caught up with the sixth-year shooting guard at this morning's shoot-a-round, and he informed me that he will be starting tonight in his first game back since having surgery Nov. 9 to repair a hairline fracture in his left wrist. Martin is expected to be joined in the starting lineup by Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes.
Martin said he met with Kings coach Paul Westphal for about 20 minutes to discuss the best approach to tonight's action. And rather than relay the info and paraphrase, just go ahead and hear from his mouth how he's feeling and thinking going into the game...
"I'm ready to play, anxious. It's like starting my training camp right now. We'll see how it goes. Don't expect a come back like I had the last couple of years (laughs)."
Asked why this is different than past years...
"First of all, we're starting on the road and the last couple of years I had my comeback at home. This one was a little longer layoff."
On how his first practice on Wednesday was more taxing than he'd anticipated when Westphal decided to go approximately three hours...
"I knew it was gonna be a tough one just because we're trying to go full speed right now. We're trying to get people going in the flow, so we needed that long, three-hour practice. It was good for everybody. It was just good."
On his meeting with Westphal...
"We met this morning for 20 minutes. I'm gonna start, and you never know how the game is going so maybe five or six minutes here and there depending on my breath, then chill out until I'm ready and depending on the game flow. If I'm going 30-plus (minutes), that means I'm playing well. I think wind-wise, once I catch that second wind I'll be fine.
Usually your first game back, it's either all or nothing."
On whether he has talked with teammates about the best way to play or if you just 'go ball,'...
"We just go out and ball. Everyone feels like it's a new start. We had a team meeting this morning before we started watching the film, and coach just told how it was going to be. We're the healthiest we've been all year. We've got 14 healthy players, and most teams in the league don't have 14. We're ready to go, so let's go. I think this is our time to get going and see what happens."
One last note: newly-acquired big man Hilton Armstrong told me he will not play tonight. I got the sense he needs a bit more time to learn the Kings' system and get comfortable.
And now, we present the sharpshooter's showdown.. I stopped the video too quickly, though, and missed Elie's proclamation that he needs his own Gatorade commercial like Miami's Dwyane Wade because "I got three (championship rings) and he's got one." "Super Mario," as he is known, won two titles with Houston (1994 and 1995) and one with San Antonio (1999).
From The Bee
'NBA, Kings back major land swap,' By Tony Bizjak
'Philadelphia is home game for Evans,' By Jason Jones
From The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News
'Tyreke Evans of Chester is living an NBA dream,' By Kate Fagan
'Tyreke Evans' strength coach is support system,' By Keith Pompey
'No skipping practice for Sixers' Iverson,' By Kevin Tatum
'Sixers rookie Holiday starting to show he's got game,' By Bob Cooney
- Sam Amick