Kevin Martin brings lessons learned in Oklahoma City to Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS — According to Kevin Martin, his one-year stay in Oklahoma City proved much more than just an in-between layover.

Even entering the 10th year of a pretty successful career, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ free-agent shooting guard acquisition is open to absorbing any lesson available.

And the Thunder gave him a lot to soak up last season.

“I learned a lot in Oklahoma City,” said Martin, whom the Timberwolves acquired in a July 11 sign-and-trade deal that also involved Milwaukee. “The way Kevin Durant and (Russell Westbrook) set the tone and approached the game, I feel like that’s something we can do in Minnesota.”

The overall expectations in the Twin Cities may differ — get to the playoffs as opposed to make it through them — to what Martin experienced last season, the final one on his contract after a trade from Houston. But the pressure on Martin is about to ramp back up.

The 6-foot-7, 185-pound Western Carolina product came off the bench in Oklahoma City. He’s expected to start here. In his most efficient 3-point shooting season to date, he scored 14 points per game — his lowest in the past seven seasons. In Minneapolis, he’ll be expected to chip in somewhere around 18 a night, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said.

With the Thunder, he deferred to NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook. Aside from Kevin Love, it’s on Martin to be a primary scorer in Rick Adelman’s system.

Not that that’s anything he’s unaccustomed to.

“I know that I’m going to be asked and also feel great about getting right back into that role where I’m gonna have to pick it up a bit,” said Martin, who shot 42.6 percent from 3 last season, good for 10th in the league. “Right now I feel, great.”

Martin becomes the only player to join Adelman in three separate cities during the coach’s 22 years in the business. A rookie draft pick by the Kings, he spent two years with Adelman in Sacramento then rejoined him in Houston after a midseason trade in 2010.

Including a rookie season where he played sparingly, Martin averages 14.6 points per game in Adelman’s pass-and-move offense.

“The type of guy that Kevin Martin is, he likes to be comfortable,” said former Houston teammate Chase Budinger, also an unrestricted free agent this summer who re-signed with Minnesota. “And when he is comfortable, that’s when he’s playing his best. That’s what he’s gonna get here.”

Martin’s decision also gives him the chance to play with longtime offseason workout partner Corey Brewer, the Timberwolves’ other free-agent wing signee. The two share the same trainer, David Thorpe, and have spent the past four years drilling under his tutelage in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area.

Once he and Minnesota agreed to his reportedly four-year, $30 million contract, Martin began heavily recruiting the defensive specialist, who began his career with the Timberwolves.

“He’s came a long way since Day 1,” Martin said. “Over the years, you can tell he’s matured, and this summer you could see it even more. Before free agency began, I remember him telling our trainer, ‘I’m committed to doing everything you want me to do to get better.”

Said Brewer: “I can’t wait to play with Kevin. That’s my guy.”

Martin didn’t necessarily want out of Oklahoma City, he said. Playing for a 60-win team that looked like an NBA Finals favorite until Westbrook went down with a season-ending torn meniscus in the first round against Houston revitalized his hunger for playoff appearances — something Minnesota’s gone without for almost a decade.

But when Martin realized Oklahoma was looking elsewhere during the free agency period, Minnesota topped his list of choices.

Now, he’ll have to prove he can still be the Kevin Martin that started 143 games for Adelman and scored 20 or more points per game every year from 2006-2011.

“We’re gonna ask him to do a lot more,” Saunders said. “He’s more familiar with our offense than anybody on our roster, and he’s going to be able to teach that offense better than anybody. There’s no question, we’re almost getting a player that’s played for us before.”

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