Martin makes case for permanent stay

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
1:35
AM ET
Somewhere on Thursday night, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald was smiling while watching the Knicks nearly knock off the 2012 Western Conference champions at the Garden.

On one end of the sideline, there was Ronnie Brewer riding the Thunder bench the entire game. On the other end, there was Kenyon Martin -- the player Grunwald signed after trading Brewer -- playing a season-high in minutes (17) in a blue-and-orange uniform after signing a second 10-day contract this week. And he made the most of them.

After tonight, Martin likely earned his full-season stay on the team for how he defended Kevin Durant, trapped in the half court and switched on the perimeter, helping to clog Russell Westbrook's airspace. Westbrook finished the second half only 1-for-9 from the field.

[+] EnlargeKenyon Martin
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesKenyon Martin may have earned himself a permanent spot on the Knicks roster.
While Martin fouled out, he made nothing easy for Durant, the NBA's leading scorer entering Thursday averaging 28.6 points per game. Remarkably, Martin had only played five minutes before tonight, and he guarded Durant with great timing and tenacity.

Even though Durant finished with a quiet 34 points, he looked rattled at times against Martin. In one matchup scenario towards the start of the second quarter, Durant fumbled the ball like he was a rookie. Then, down the stretch, Durant settled for more outside shots than drives. Against the 6-9, 240-pound Martin, who has five pounds on Durant, open lanes were not easily available for OKC's star.

"He's had some success guarding 3s and 4s and 5s in our league," Mike Woodson said afterward. "That's what he does; he can guard people. I thought it was a perfect time to give him a shot on Durant. I thought he did an excellent job. ... Durant really had to work to get his points tonight."

On one play early in the fourth quarter, Martin gave Durant, through his defense, second thoughts about coming into the paint. Martin hit him with a hard foul mid-air, which was nearly called a flagrant.

"I just let them know it's not going to be easy tonight," Martin said. "That's how I've always approached the game. That's how I'm going to continue to play."

Postgame, Woodson and the players raved about Martin's energy, toughness and leadership.

"That's what he brings to the table," the coach said. "That's what Rasheed and Camby bring to the table, Kurt. Those guys are old-school guys. They don't believe in guys coming to the rim and getting layups. So as we move up this road, Kenyon is going to be a factor for us defensively. That's why we are keeping him around on our ball club."

Said Raymond Felton, "He's a bruiser, somebody who can guard 1 to 5. At the same time, if we get knocked on the floor, he's going to do it to the other team."

In addition to collecting a steal, Martin scored four points, including an alley-oop finish from J.R. Smith towards the end of the second period, which tied the game at 48. And how did the play start off? From the Knicks forcing a turnover.

"We can score on anyone in the league, we've proved that," Martin said. "But the defense is what's going to get it done."

After the game, Martin said of his increased playing time, "It was one of the best feelings ever. I'm going to sleep like an infant tonight. I'll take this tired any day."

In the morning, he can start searching for a more permanent address, because best believe, he's not going anywhere.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2