At 14-39 and with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, the 2020-21 season isn’t going as planned for the Houston Rockets.
But even in a rebuilding year, they’ve accumulated what general manager Rafael Stone refers to as a “young core” to build around. That group includes supremely athletic rookie forward KJ Martin, selected in the second round of the NBA’s 2019 draft. Martin has already made a habit of rejecting some of the league’s tallest players, and he added James Wiseman — Golden State’s 7-foot-1 center — to that list on Saturday.
When asked about the trend at Monday’s shootaround, hours before Houston’s game that night in Phoenix, Martin said:
It’s just the flow of the game. It just happened. I just go up and go up for the challenge. If I get dunked on, oh well. That’s just how I look at it.
There’s no easy buckets. No matter who it is, I’m going to try to contest it, get a block, change their shot, do something. It’s cool that they are all seven-footers. I’m going to keep trying to add on to the list.
In all, Martin has now rejected dunk attempts this season by 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall, 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic, 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis, and a pair of 7-foot-1 players (Wiseman and Rudy Gobert).
Besides his hops, Martin’s willingness to get dunked on — should his attempt go poorly — is what continually gives him these opportunities.
Since being recalled from the G League in early March, Martin has taken on an increasingly bigger role with the Rockets. In 19 appearances since March 11, he’s averaging 8.4 points (59.4% FG, 40.0% on 3-pointers), 5.1 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in 22.5 minutes per game.
“Me going to the G League and getting that playing time, I think it helped me a lot get used to the flow of the game,” said Martin, whose father, Kenyon Martin, played 15 NBA seasons after being taken No. 1 overall in 2000. “I just try to stick to the same stuff I was doing there — coming in, having energy, defending, and hitting open shots. It fits me great.”