Where to begin? As I'm sure you all know, David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for ESPN.com, and has been coaching Kevin Martin since Kevin's sophomore year at Western Carolina. They've maintained a close relationship throughout Kevin's years in the NBA, and continue to work together to this day. Many thanks to David for taking the time to answer my questions, and a shout out goes to Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty for helping to set this up. David has been a StR reader for a long time, and now that Kevin is a Rocket, who knows, maybe he'll stop by TDS every once in a while. Either way, if you're looking to find out more about Martin, take a look at what David had to say. It's a fantastic scouting report, and really takes a deep look at Kevin's past development, as well as what challenges lie ahead of him. Hope you enjoy!
TM: I'm assuming that Kevin Martin didn't just walk into your office back in 2002 and say, "Hey, can I train here?" How did the two of you become acquainted? Do you have any requirements or prerequisites for players who wanted to train with you?
DT: His college coach sent him down to me after he averaged 22ppg as a frosh but could only shoot three's. He did not attack much, and could not dribble. He stayed for a week. and I kept thinking he would leave after each day. I had guys like Udonis Haslem and Josh Powell here, and he clearly fit in well with them. But he didn't like being pushed as hard as we pushed him, but he came back every day. By weeks end, I think he realized he had discovered a new way to play. A few months later, he scored 46 points in their opening game. That opened up his mind even more, and asked to come back the following summer. We continued to build, and then in his opening game, as a junior, he scored 44 at Georgia in a tight game (killed Damien Wilkins and was told by Dominique that he'd be in the NBA). We've been very close since. I'm honored that after 8 years, he still comes to me every summer and we talk almost daily. My only requirements to train guys is that they work hard, and have an agent that I like or trust. If a player wants to work with me but his agent likes someone else, it never ends up good.
While he may not have been on everyone's draft radar, Kevin was no slouch before he began training at PTC, as he averaged 22 points per game his freshman year in college. What do you think Kevin's largest improvement has been since you began working with him?
Without a doubt it's the ability to slash and score off the dribble or cuts. We have always talked about finding ways to get to the line also. I make our students use shot fakes hundreds of times each day. It's a valuable weapon, especially in the hands of a great shooter with great quickness.
Kevin is one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history, and focuses primarily on getting as many points from behind the three point line and at the free throw line as possible. Is he a naturally gifted scorer in this respect, or is this a result of your tutelage?
He's been a great shooter his entire life. I hope I have been someone who has helped teach him how to be a scorer, but Kevin is a genius at it, and he learns from everyone and everything he sees. The list of people who have helped him is long, and it keeps growing.
About that weird shooting stroke - where did that come from?
He always shot from across his face, something I planned on changing the summer after his rookie year. But Pete Carril, an assistant then (and now) with the Kings, had him set the ball on his right hip first before he shot his long shots. He liked it, so we worked on grooving it down that summer. He had all sorts of little problems along the way; lower body twist, straight legs, lack of balance, poor extension-that we needed to clean up for the form to work. It's a process that is ongoing. His jumpshot is almost technically perfect, as is his three-ball when he gets set, once the ball gets over his shoulder. It just has a funny start.
What is Kevin's best defensive attribute?
His quickness. He can be someone who is disruptive to drivers because he can beat them to spots. And he can play the passing lanes well. We spent more time this summer working on his awareness and movement from help side to ball side than ever before, and I'm confident that he'll make huge progress with this. It's something all NBA players should be working on. I'm guessing he'll be getting coached a lot on that these next 2 months and the years afterwards.
What does Kevin need to work on offensively?
That's a long list. But I'd like to see him add more change of speed/direction into his drives. He tends to rely on beating his man at the point of attack and then sprinting to the rim. I also think he needs to get back to being a super-athletic guy too, as a finisher. His left hand always needs work around the basket. His mix of deep shooting and hard driving sometimes suffers, his triple threat game with good jabs has atrophied some, as has his ballscreen attacks. Should I go on? He seems energized to get better, as he should. Remember, it was just a few months ago he scored 48 and the next game had 29 and 11 against Atlanta-with a broken wirst the last 3 halves of those games.
Does Kevin have a current or former player whom he looks up to or considers an influence? If so, who?
Michael Jordan. He wears his shoes as part of the Jordan Brand team. He was invited to MJ's induction to the Hall of Fame and it blew him away. We've studied a lot of players. though. Kobe, Rip, Reggie, Wade probably most of all.
Name a favorite moment that you and Kevin have shared that is unrelated to basketball.
I have many, but I'll share two, one that concerns basketball. The first one happened the night he got drafted. He was at the beach when his name was called, then drove to my house right after. Later that night, after his interviews, we were sitting in my great room when my wife asked him what car did he hope to buy. He said "definitely not an SUV because your husband would kill me" ( I had spent 2 years lecturing him on how silly it is to have all these NBA players drive monstrous gas guzzlers when they never even car pool). He ended up with a small Cadillac, so he had enough money to buy both his parents their own car (a Nissand Sentra and Murano, I believe).
The second happened a few years ago. His team was basically out of playoff contention, but we spoke about a list of things that I wanted him to focus on to help his team win some games and end the season strongly. I texted that list to him, and it contained personal goals for him to reach each day at practice. Extra film study. Extra shots. More dunking drills. Good eating habits. Etc. The idea was for him to do his best to stay focused and hungry, and carry that over to everyone else in an effort to play better collectively. The last item on the list was to win the NBA Player of the Week award, which would only come if the Kings earned some wins. A week goes by, the team and he had played very well, and I was reading an article in the Sacramento Bee about the sweaty piece of paper that fell out of his socks the night before. The reporter (Bee reporter Sam Amick) asked him what it was and Kevin replied that it was just something he put together to help him stay focused. I called him about it and he said he took that list from his cell phone and copied each item down, then decided to put it in his sock to help him remember to play with purpose. When he earned the Player of the Week award the next day, it had a special meaning to both of us. Looking back, it's surprising that he's not in Sacramento anymore. He LOVED it there, from management to fans and just the area in general. I thought, and hoped, he'd play his whole career there. My memories of his time there will always be special.