Tyreke Clinches 20-5-5, But Kings Fall Again

Was that predictable, or what? Kevin Martin comes in and has a ridiculously good game on offense, doing exactly the thing he did as a King for so long, infuriating the Kings as he did so many opponents. And that game -- 39 points on 11/20 shooting and 16/16 FTs -- is completely overshadowed by Tyreke Evans, who with 24 points on the night guaranteed he would finish the season with a per-game average of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only members of the rookie 20-5-5 club, and LeBron and Kobe Bryant as the only players to do it this season.

And all that overshadows the actual game, a 117-107 Rockets win in which Martin couldn't miss early, Trevor Ariza couldn't miss late, and the Kings fell apart.

I don't blame Tyreke for the Kings offense falling apart -- he wasn't going out of his way to try to get to 24 in the third quarter. Heck, he had 10 FGAs in the first quarter,  when Martin was assigned to guard him. The long stretch of Reke's ineffectiveness at the end of the first half and start of the second is only noticeable because everyone was focused on him, and the threshold. Reke told FanHouse's Sam Amick after the game that those final two points to clinch 20-5-5 were the most difficult of his life. I don't think that showed, at least on the T.V. He got the rim on most of the attempts, and had bad breaks. There were a couple questionable attempts, but that's not exactly outside the norm this season, is it?

If I may digress back to the subject of Martin ...

At the start of the fourth quarter, as Martin was simply destroying every King thrown his way, Jerry Reynolds discussed Kevin in a way I'm not sure we'd heard publicly to this point. All along, the stance from the front office (of which J.R. is a part) has been that the Kings traded Martin because of Carl Landry, because they needed help up front a lot more than they needed a high-scoring, high-possession guard, and because the disparity in salaries could help the Kings add an extra player. The argument, at least publicly, has never been about Martin. It's been about what the Kings got back.

Reynolds introduced a new element to the discussion: a lack of faith in Kevin's future.

J.R. said he wondered if Martin would ever get back to where he was before the latest injuries (last season's bone spurs in the ankle and this year's hand fracture), and whether Martin could ever stay healthy. And while J.R. the color analyst is different than J.R. the director of player personnel or even J.R. the fly on the wall of Geoff Petrie's war room, it had some resonance in the sense that he wasn't just making a personal statement. It seemed like a team position, if that makes sense. It seemed like an opinion that wasn't new, wasn't personal, wasn't foreign. (Grant Napear's reaction to the comments -- complete agreement -- helped this presentation.)

Maybe it doesn't need to be said, that the front office lost faith in Martin's ability to bounce back and to stay healthy. I mean, he did get traded out of the blue. Perhaps we should have intuitively known the front office lost faith in Martin as soon as the trade went down. But give the front office credit -- all along, the line has been that Landry helped more than Martin (which is still debatable), and that the financial flexibility will help (we'll see if the Kings spend in either of the next two summers).

That line has been strong all along, until Jerry's comments last night.

***

If I may:

Martin's injuries were not chronic. They were unfortunate, yes, and they were fairly frequent. But this was not Webber's knee, or even Peja's back. Allen Iverson broke Martin's non-shooting hand. That injury will not cause him to miss another minute for the rest of his career.

Last year, Martin screwed up his ankle. He came back on fire this year (before missing a couple months with the broken hand). He showed he could come back from that injury by averaging 30 points a game in his first five games of the season.

I don't think you can reasonably assess someone's future based on a fluke injury fully repaired, or an ankle issue quite obviously overcome.

If this was a serious part of the front office's consideration in selling Martin low (while he struggled to get back in shape and in a flow with his largely new teammates), then it seems pretty likely the front office will be looking pretty silly in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

***

Tyreke, Kevin ... we're all forgetting the important thing here: Donte Greene scored 16 points! The Show must go on ...

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