Kenyon Martin played on Nets teams that took pleasure out of beating the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Now he's trying to help the Knicks stay ahead of the Nets in the standings while proving he can still play.
Martin, 35, has no doubt he can, although NBA teams shut the door on the first pick of the 2000 draft until the Knicks signed him to a 10-day contract Saturday. The 6-9, 240-pound forward made his Knicks debut Wednesday night at the Garden and it didn't start well, as he had no points or rebounds and was minus-10 in five first-half minutes in a 109-105 win over the Warriors.
"I'm just going to be me," Martin said. "If what I do merits for me to be here the rest of the year, then I will be. And if not, then I won't. But I think the way my game is and the way I play, I'll let my play speak for itself."
Martin's chances of sticking with the Knicks for a second 10-day and the rest of the season improved yesterday. The Knicks announced Rasheed Wallace will have surgery this week to repair a broken bone in his left pinkie toe and will miss eight weeks. Wallace's return this season from a stress reaction in his left foot was doubtful anyway, which was why the Knicks pursued Martin, who has career averages of 13 points and 7.1 rebounds.
They wanted a defensive-minded, tough player who not only can help them win the Atlantic Division -- they lead the Nets by two games -- but also challenge the defending champion Heat and other contenders in the playoffs.
The Knicks traded Ronnie Brewer to the Thunder for a 2014 second-round pick last week to clear the roster spot for the edgy Martin, a former All-Star who struggled with being unemployed.
"It humbles you," Martin said. "I know it humbled me. I can't speak on the next man. I didn't think I played all that bad last year with the Clippers, helped them get out of the first round, was a major part of that. Stranger things have happened.
"It was something that was unexpected, of course, took the time to get my mind around it. I went through every emotion -- mad, sad, upset, confused. You name it, I went through it."
Now Martin is determined to make it work with the Knicks and fill a role they need.
He was the defensive stopper/enforcer early in his career while playing with Jason Kidd on the Nets and helped them reach the Finals in 2002 and 2003. That role followed Martin to Denver and last year with the Clippers, for whom he averaged 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds.
After shootaround Wednesday, Mike Woodson went over some defensive schemes and how the Knicks planned to guard the pick-and-roll against the Warriors.
"He knows defenses," Woodson said. "He'll be fine."
"My knowledge of the game helps me out there a lot. It's the same stuff on every team, just changing the names of it," Martin said. "But I think I do a pretty good job paying attention to detail, watching tape, scouting, stuff like that, which is more than half the battle. When you get out on the court, if you know what your opponent's going to do, it makes it that much easier."
Martin is still getting into game shape. He said he's "in treadmill shape," but was looking forward to playing his way into game condition and the Knicks' rotation, and said he wasn't nervous about making his debut.
"I don't get nerves," he said. "Anxiety maybe, trying not to hyperventilate. But nerves? I've played in Finals, big games, I don't get nervous. That ain't something I do.
"It's basketball. It's not life or death."