Despite a lacerated pinky, shooting guard Kevin Martin is back to taking shots with authority and scoring, something the Minnesota Timberwolves desperately need from him.
In Saturday's win over the Warriors, guard Kevin Martin scored 26 points and made a step-back jumper with 8.4 seconds left for Minnesota's go-ahead basket.
Ben Margot / AP
By Phil ErvinFOX Sports North
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is the Kevin Martin that Rick Adelman recalls.
The one that stretches the floor and fits the Timberwolves coach's corner offense like a charm. The one that can, when needed, shoulder the bulk of the scoring load -- see Saturday's loss at Portland. The one with enough experience to knock down a late shot -- see Friday's win at Golden State.
This is what Adelman and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders had in mind when Minnesota inked Martin to a four-year, $28 million contract this past summer.
The ebb and flow of the NBA season hadn't been kind to the 6-foot-7, 197-pound shooting guard in recent weeks. His production dipped from 22.7 points per game during his first 20 contests to 14.9 points per game during the next 17. He was hampered by left knee soreness and shied away from attacking the basket as frequently as he had while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range during the season's first quarter.
Adelman said Martin -- whom he's coached twice before, in Sacramento and Houston -- was too hesitant.
"He's not taking (shots) with authority," Adelman said recently. "He's kind of taking them, not sure if he should."
Lately, though, Martin appears to have regained some of his early-season aplomb.
He's back up in the 22-point-average range during the past five outings. He's made 14 of 30 3-pointers (46.7 percent) and scored 20 or more points in three of those contests.
All with a lacerated pinky suffered Tuesday in Utah, the beginning of the Timberwolves' four-game road trip that concludes Monday night in Chicago.
The pinnacle of Martin's recent surge came Friday, when he canned a fadeaway jump shot over Warriors guard Klay Thompson to give Minnesota its biggest road win of the season. Even in a loss to the Trail Blazers the next night, Martin tied his season high with 30 points and made six 3-pointers -- his most since Nov. 16, 2012.
There's no special secret, Martin said.
"I just feel it's something I've been doing my whole career," Martin said, "not changing anything, just take what the defense gives you."
The most glaring need on the Timberwolves' roster remains a dynamite scorer that can create his own shot outside and finish at the rim, especially late. But Martin's ability to score from most spots on the floor and get to the free-throw line -- where he's shooting 89.7 percent, third-best in the NBA -- render him, in situations like Friday, the next-best thing.
The trick is ensuring he has opportunities in more scenarios, forward Kevin Love said.
"When he gets out on the break and we find him for an open 3, I think that's his best shot," Love said. "It's just an easy, fluid jump shot for him, and hopefully in the half court we can find him in places he likes to get so he can really get going."
Being reunited with Adelman helps. The two teamed up in Sacramento from 2004-2006 and again in Houston from the middle of the 2010 season through 2012.
And while another rough patch surely could arise, Martin's confident his place in Adelman's scheme and personnel hierarchy will keep affording him chances to be a game changer.
"It's been fun," said Martin, halfway through his 10th season. "That's where I learn a lot of my moves from. Being an old guy and being back in there, I feel comfortable."