Can K-Mart Keep it Going?

Brian DiMenna

Naturally, before this Knicks season began, we all figured that the team’s fate would ultimately be decided by the play of Kenyon Martin.Kenyon Martin, Jonas Valanciu, Linas Kleiza

Oh wait, no, no one figured that, and yet here we are.

To describe Martin’s play as a revelation would be to insult revelations. His game has been inspiring, boasting an average of 12.2 points and 7.8 rebounds over his past five games. He’s given the team something they sorely needed, tough interior defense, some attitude on the glass and an ability to finish without being someone who regularly needs the ball in order to be effective offensively, all the while just adding a much needed spark for a team quickly losing confidence.

I’m not afraid to admit, that although I saw the pickup as being absolutely worth investigating, I hardly thought the addition would make much discernible difference. I figured we’d settle into the occassional, “Oh hey, there’s Kenyon Martin, remember when he was really good? We should have had him then.” So it’s been with some surprise to watch as during the current four-game winning streak he’s become essentially an indispensable player.

He’s emerged as the thing the Knicks seemed to be missing all along, which is weird since he was notably just sort of sitting there.

Sure, there’s something offputting about a Knicks team suddenly relying on Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, a pair I universally loathed during their days in New Jersey, though mostly because they seemed like such a natural fit in New York. It seemed almost unjust that the Garden be occupied by the doughy shuffling of Michael Sweetney or Clarence Weatherspoon, while Kidd to Martin lobs were being wasted in the dreary swamps of the Meadowlands.

But they’re both here now, and though it’s certainly a touch late, Martin’s contributions have been heartily felt.

If Martin were able to continue this level of productivity, the Knicks’ prospects I think dramatically improve. Though it’s still worth throwing out all the necessary caveats, noting that the level of competition of late has been poor, that this is still a very small sample of games and questions remain as to whether his achy body can really hold up.

But we’ll likely get answers to all those questions in due time, for now, Martin has stabilized what was a seemingly sinking ship, and along with a return to health for Carmelo Anthony, he’s made it possible to imagine that New York may actually enter the playoffs on the upswing, as opposed to riding in on the increasingly shaky ground of a week or so ago.

The Knicks didn’t expect to lean on Kenyon Martin this season, but they’re sure doing it now. How well he holds up may well tell us most of what we need to know as this season winds down.

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