MINNEAPOLIS — To Kevin Martin, the conversations when No. 35 in light blue comes to town are old hat.
There’s no stopping Kevin Durant. Corey Brewer, Dante Cunningham and whoever else coach Rick Adelman throws at Oklahoma City’s superstar small forward will try Friday night at the Target Center, but they shouldn’t plan on succeeding.
“You can’t really get down if he’s making shots,” Brewer said. “It’s Kevin Durant. He’s gonna make shots. You’ve just got to make it tough.”
Cunningham and departed swingman Andrei Kirilenko matched up with Durant as Minnesota split four games with the Thunder last season. They had luck on par with the rest of the league.
“Nobody has any,” Adelman said. “There’s gonna be a lot of people to have a shot at him, whether it’s Derrick (Williams), DC, Corey, Robbie (Hummel), I don’t know. We’ll throw everybody at him.”
And it still probably won’t work. It’s something NBA teams have just come to accept since Durant took rookie of the year honors in 2007-08. By the time Martin got to Oklahoma City before last season, he was well aware of the three-time scoring champion’s otherworldly skill set.
But what Martin, who signed with the Timberwolves as a free agent this summer, didn’t know previously was how well Durant handles the fame that comes with being one of the most revered figures in sport.
“I’d never played with a player to get that much press and have that much popularity,” Martin said. “He’s the alpha dog, but he can also sit back and just enjoy the ride.”
If that doesn’t seem important, reconsider. According to Martin, Durant’s charisma permeated the Thunder’s locker room, helping create a “family” atmosphere that allowed them to deal with championship expectations a year after losing in the NBA Finals.
It’s one of the first building blocks to setting a similar standard in the Twin Cities, Martin said.
“I think the first key for us is just establish that family-type atmosphere, and you don’t let anybody come in that locker room and try to break it,” said Martin, who spent one season in Oklahoma City after a trade from Houston. “I think we’ve done a good job of that, but it’s a long process.”
Especially for a team that hasn’t even been to the playoffs in nearly a decade.
For Martin, his Minnesota debut Wednesday against Orlando carried more meaning than a reunion with his former teammates. It wasn’t the marquee start he was looking for, but Martin rebounded from a tough regulation — 4-for-17 shooting — to score seven points in overtime of the Timberwolves’ victory.
A few of his attempts rimmed out. Just like defending Durant, he said, the trick is to keep on plugging even after things go wrong.
An appropriate mentality for the entire Timberwolves squad as it hosts a legitimate title contender Friday.
“That’s what makes you a 20-point scorer in this league; you forget about the ones before,” said Martin, who averaged 14 per game off the bench for the Thunder last year. “There were so many in-and-out shots, I was ready to rip the rim down sometimes. I’ve never had so many in-and-outs in one game.”
DNP, A-OK?: Derrick Williams said he isn’t sore over not seeing the floor Wednesday.
“We won,” the third-year forward said. “It can’t be disappointing when we win.”
Orlando deployed a three-guard lineup for much of the Timberwolves’ season opener, so Adelman countered with a smaller group of his own. That included Dante Cunningham and even Martin at the three when Brewer was out.
While Adelman said the decision to leave Williams on the bench was made because of matchups, it’s clear the coach prefers him at power forward. But the presence of a healthy Kevin Love doesn’t leave Williams a whole lot of minutes.
“I don’t worry about him as much as you guys do,” Adelman told reporters. “He’s gonna get a chance to play when it looks like a good opportunity for him.”
That may come Friday against the Thunder, but Sunday at New York looks like a better bet. Williams’ 6-foot-8 frame allows him to better keep up on defense with Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks’ No. 1 swingman.
But not making Williams part of the everyday rotation doesn’t mirror the vote of confidence he received last week when the Timberwolves picked up the $6.7 million option on his contract. He still doesn’t appear to have a defined role on the roster, and until he does, the trade murmurs that have marked his career will continue.
For his part, he says he’ll be ready when called upon.
A hint of frustration could be detected in his voice, though, when asked about how long he can remain patient while he sits and watches games.
“I’ve been patient for two years now, so we’ll see,” said Williams, whose best minutes came last year when Love was out with an injury. “I don’t know.”