Thunder have some adjustments to make with Kevin Martin

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For years, Kevin Martin was a player I hoped would land on a bigger stage. He was maybe the most efficient scorer in the NBA, a guy who could shoot the three, had a deceptively good handle and knew how to get to the line. He scored more than 20 points a game for five straight seasons but outside fantasy players most casual fans didn’t seem to know or realize how good he was.

He’s on a bigger stage now — he is the main piece coming back to Oklahoma City in the James Harden trade. (We can talk about Jeremy Lamb, but he is long term not this season.)

But after a season where his game and numbers regressed, how will Martin do on that stage? The other challenge will be how he fits in OKC, where he will get the minutes of a very different style of player in James Harden.

Martin brings skills that will help the Thunder. That starts with his ability to just plain shoot the rock. He’s a career 37.7 percent shooter from three with a quick release. You have to respect him out there but when defenders close he has the handles to go around him and hit a long two (he shot 44 percent from 16 feet out to the arc last season). Martin has a good pump fake and a better crossover than people expect and those create space — and he doesn’t need much to get a shot off.

It’s easy to see Martin being a threat playing on the wing and keeping defenses honest when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are on the floor.

But what Harden did well was keep the second unit scoring while Westbrook and Durant rested, and that is where the adjustments will have to come in for OKC.

Martin is simply not near the playmaker Harden is. Now some of the shot creation duties will fall to point guard Eric Maynor. Martin though will get looks, both in transition and some in isolation. He has to get back to the things he did before last year’s regression (when his shooting percentage slumped to 41.3 percent).

That starts with getting to the line. Martin knew how to draw fouls — he averaged more than 10 free throws a game in 2009. But last year his free throws attempted per game dropped almost by half what it was the year before, down to 4.5. The NBA stopped calling fouls on the “rip move” (a Martin specialty) but it was more than that, it was how he was used in the offense and how he attacked out of it. He has to find that comfort zone again.

Martin also works well off the ball and the Thunder should consider running some Ray Allen-like screens.

But whatever they do, it will be different. The Thunder have adjustments to make that could take some time for the players to get used to.

But at least Martin is on a big stage now and we get to see what he does with that.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.