This isn’t the first time Kevin Martin has expressed his desire to remain long-term with the Thunder, but it is the latest time. And probably the most emphatic.
Martin will be an unrestricted free agent in July, but he reiterated to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports that he wants to stay in Oklahoma City past this season.
“This summer, hopefully everything works out here,” Martin told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday. “I haven’t said that too often. But I will put it out there; hopefully I have found a home in the NBA. I love playing with this group of guys. The organization is great to me. The community has been great to me. It’s the happiest I have been during my NBA career.
“This is my spot … hopefully.”
Are you skeptical? You should be. Thunder fans have been down this road once, and it ended poorly.
But Martin’s situation is far different than James Harden’s. For instance, consider this quote from Martin in the piece: “I knew what type of situation I was going into and that it was a perfect time for my career to be on a contending team in the middle of my prime.”
He’s been The Man, he’s played the primary weapon. He’s toiled away on mediocre teams averaging 20+ a night. He’s already been paid top dollar for his scoring. Now, he’s got his sights on other things, things he hasn’t accomplished.
I don’t doubt that Martin has a serious desire to remain with the Thunder, one so heavy that he genuinely would consider a trim in salary. The question is if the feeling is mutual, in the sense that the Thunder are willing to at least be competitive with their offer.
According to a league source, “multiple” teams plan to show interest in Martin this offseason, all looking to sign him and install him back as more of a featured player. Can — or will — the Thunder compete with those offers? And will Martin really put his money where his mouth has been and give OKC a little break? That’s the common ground both sides will likely be seeking.
He’s happy in his role off the bench in OKC, but happy enough to take less? Also known as the Harden Conundrum.
Here’s OKC’s financial situation: Per Sham Sports, OKC has about $67 million on the books already for next season, and $66 million for the season after that. While the Thunder proved in the Harden negotiations they were willing to break into tax territory, the question is if they were just willing to make that exception for Harden. Getting Martin for something in the two-year, $17 million range sounds reasonable to me, but that would put OKC right on the tax fringe. Something they’d very much prefer avoiding. So the question is, is Martin worth it to them to pay tax on?
Martin will turn 30 in a couple weeks, and while that’s a little older, he’s still right in the prime of his career, especially in the role the Thunder are using him in. He’s not taking nightly beatings trying to carry an offense. Life is easy for him.
There’s still half a season to go, and then a whole other season after that with the playoffs. How Martin continues to perform could impact things, as well as the Thunder’s feelings about Jeremy Lamb and what happens with that Raptors pick. A lot of things could still influence this situation.
But Martin has made his position pretty clear. Your move — in July — Thunder.