We don’t know how serious this is. It might be a feeling out. It might be more than that. This may all mean nothing. But since it’s been reported, that means someone (probably an agent) has leaked it for a reason and now there’s no avoiding it, so let’s just discuss this whole Kenyon Martin thing.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Kenyon Martin appear to be interested in learning more about each other, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
NBA free agent veteran forward Kenyon Martin is heading to Cleveland to meet with Bucks coach Jason Kidd today, a source told Yahoo Sports.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) December 30, 2014
The Bucks have not offered Kenyon Martin a contract. Free agents cannot be signed to 10-day contracts until Jan. 5. — Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) December 30, 2014
As you likely recall, Kidd and Martin were teammates with the New Jersey Nets and the leaders of back-to-back NBA Finals teams in 2002 and 2003. They reunited on the surprising 2012-13 New York Knicks, after Martin joined the team mid-season. While Kidd retired and joined the Brooklyn Nets as head coach, Martin spent another season with the Knicks before entering free agency this off season.
Jabari Parker‘s torn ACL weakened Milwaukee’s front court in mid-December and various ailments, the most recent a concussion that may be cause for lingering concern, have left Ersan Ilyasova active only once since the start of December. Second round pick Johnny O’Bryant has started the past six games for Milwaukee, occasionally flashing an ability to score in the post, but more frequently looking a little overwhelmed. In 10 minutes per game this season, he’s averaging just 1.3 rebounds. Milwaukee’s other second round pick, Damien Inglis, has yet to take the court, though he appears to be out of his walking boot after foot surgery.
Milwaukee’s roster is currently at 15, so the Bucks would either have to get an disabled player exception for Parker to open up a roster spot, make a trade in which they take back one less player than they give up or release a player to create a roster spot. It’s unclear what would be necessary for Milwaukee to be granted a disabled player exception, though if I recall correctly, the league doesn’t typically hand them out to any team that happens to lose a guy for a season.
Even with 15 guys, Milwaukee’s battling some depth issues up front. And while the team has managed to split its past six games, rebounding has certainly cropped up as a recurring issue. Over his past three seasons, Martin’s rebound rate has hovered between 11-13%, which would put him on par with Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova as a rebounder. He wouldn’t solve all of Milwaukee’s woes, but he could potentially be a contributor.
Sixth Seed or Bust
If Martin is a positive contributor, that helps Milwaukee achieve a playoff spot, which would obviously be its new goal this season, a season that was supposedly going to be spent on the development of young players. Giannis continues to develop and Brandon Knight seems to have his ups along with his downs, but we’ve seen little of Henson even when he’s been healthy. Larry Sanders has battled for minutes with Zaza Pachulia and Kendall Marshall bounces in and out of the lineup. All of the decisions are justifiable as they relate to the team’s performance, but it kind of seemed like the team’s performance wasn’t going to be the focus this season.
A signing of Martin indicates that’s the primary focus the rest of the way.
Signing Martin isn’t working with an eye towards tomorrow. Lay out the blueprints for tomorrow’s Bucks and you don’t see Martin anywhere in them. He’s not helping the Bucks put a focus back on the future. He’s literally older than the movie Back to the Future. Maybe Johnny O’Bryant isn’t going to blossom into a rebounding force overnight, but I’d much rather watch him out there taking his lumps for 20 minutes every night rather than Kenyon Martin in a season that means even less without Jabari Parker.
Or maybe the Bucks could get creative and work Henson into the lineup next to a center. Go big and see what happens. Henson has played just four combined minutes with either Sanders or Pachulia this season. Sure, Henson has looked great as a backup center the last two games and, yes, Sanders being sick has thinned center depth further, but being closed to the idea of two bigs sharing the court seems drastic. Again, this was the season we thought would be about experimentation. Jared Dudley at the four? Sure thing. Giannis at center? Of course. John Henson and Larry Sanders together? Why not!?
It seems like Kidd prefers a bit more mobility out of his combination of big men, but why not mess around with young players rather than call up old friends who aren’t doing much? When things end with a girl in my life, my instinct may be to check out the contacts in my phone and see who I could call up to help combat the crushing feeling of loss that comes with the end of another fling, BUT THAT IS NOT PROGRESS. Progress is finding someone new, finding my own personal second round pick to develop.
Too personal? Okay. Let’s refocus.
Basically, a signing of Martin seems like business as usual, which we were promised was a thing of the past. My first thought when hearing about Martin was of Jerry Stackhouse, who was signed in January of 2010. He was a delight and ended up playing a role on a playoff team we all enjoyed watching. But Stackhouse was not long for the Bucks. He meant little in the grand scheme of the franchise and had he not been signed, perhaps there would have been more time for Jodie Meeks, who ended up getting shipped out at the trade deadline for a guy who used to know Brandon Jennings and a potential assistant coach.
Who is in charge?
This is the other thing. There’s no question that Coach Jason Kidd wants to win every game he’s coaching. That’s the instinct of all coaches and it’s a damn fine instinct to have. But sometimes, developing players should take precedence. I’m not saying there needs to be set number of minutes in place for younger players on this team, but maybe bringing in new veterans to help win games at the expense of playing time for younger players isn’t the correct direction for the franchise to be heading in, since it’s the same damn direction that led them nowhere in the past 25 years.
Of course Kidd is going to try to win games as a coach, which is fine, but that’s why there are executives above him that are looking at the bigger picture and controlling roster moves. At least we thought that’s how things were operating. John Hammond is the team’s GM. But if the Bucks bring in Martin, that seems like another move spearheaded by Jason Kidd. He’s played with Martin a bunch. Martin is coming to meet specifically with him. This is a Jason Kidd move.
If Jason Kidd is wielding more and more influence on Milwaukee’s roster, I’m less and less confident the Bucks are as invested in tomorrow as their hashtag would have us believe.