When There's Nothing Left to Burn, You Have to Set O.J. Mayo on Fire

With all the excitement of a win (a win!), and the amazing showing by Omri Casspi, Beno Udrih and Spencer Hawes, it's easy to discount how widely Kevin Martin dominated this game. Forty-eight points has never been considered ho-hum, and while I didn't catch SportsCenter, I imagine the scoring performance (that is, again, 48 freaking points) is getting some attention. What may not be is how thoroughly Martin dominated O.J. Mayo on the defensive end.

Read that again: Kevin Martin dominated O.J. Mayo ... on defense. Kevin Martin. On defense. Kevin. Martin. Defense.

Martin was all over the place, in a good way. Mayo was handcuffed most of the game, until to get into the lane and unable to draw fouls on Martin. The Grizzly guard got a few easy scores late, as Martin clearly began to wear down (52-1/2 of 53 minutes played will do that to you), but for the balance of the game the Kings defense could count Mayo as handled. How huge is that!

And it wasn't a matter of plugging a defensive stopper into the game. The Kings' best defender scored, um, 48 points. This was the greatest performance of Kevin Martin's career, and it's not close. Kevin Martin is becoming a good defender before our eyes ... and he's still managing to drop 48 on the Grizzlies. It's almost too good to be true.

I hate to invoke evil, but that was a Kobe-like performance. (Maybe not ... Martin did have four assists, after all.) Martin was the Alpha and the Omega on the court nearly the entire span -- save a few moments at the end of regulation, when Udrih-to-Hawes and Hawes-to-Udrih dropped jaws (and panties, no doubt). Maybe it was the sold-out home debut, or just the right tingling in the fingertips. Maybe that helps explain the offensive explosion.

But I have reason to believe the defense was real.

Martin has played defense better than at any point in his career so far this season. He has been burned on some bad gambles while playing for the steal, but overall has been much more active and disruptive than ever before. He's keeping his man in front of him. He's offering help defense. He's talking. He's listening. He's doing everything a good defender needs to do. And while he may not be strong enough to muscle up bigger two-guards or even small forwards -- I wouldn't look forward to Martin marking Danny Granger, for example -- if he can continue this level of quality defense all season, he's an easy All-Star, and well worth his salary ... and then some. If he can keep doing this, the Kings can keep winning.

As for the others: you don't expect Udrih to be that perfect ever again, but you also don't expect Tyreke Evans to be that ineffective against a smaller opponent. You may not expect Hawes to drop 21/11/7 on the reg, but you also don't count on foul trouble for Jason Thompson every night. And no, Martin won't average 48 points a game, but this in total can be replicated. The Kings can win games, which is something that couldn't be said after the All-Star break last season.

As for Omri Casspi ... oh, man. I don't know exactly what brand of player he will become. By in spirit, in soul, he's the next Bobby Jackson. This city will adore this kid, if it doesn't already.

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