Kenyon Martin of the Knicks acknowledges the crowd against the...

Kenyon Martin of the Knicks acknowledges the crowd against the Golden State Warriors. (Feb. 27, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Kenyon Martin said he feels blessed that the Knicks gave him a job. The Knicks now feel fortunate that Martin was available.

Injuries brought Martin to the Knicks on a 10-day deal last month. Injuries led to signing him for the remainder of the season and making him a starter.

Martin, 35, is embracing his opportunity. He's proving he should have been in the league all along and that many teams made a mistake by passing on him. He shot 9-for-10 and had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the Knicks' win in Toronto on Friday that clinched a playoff berth.

"It's a blessing to be back playing," Martin said. "I just try to stay ready. It's an opportunity for me to play. It's unfortunate because of injuries, but I'll take it. Just blessed and honored to be here."

Intense and physical, Martin always plays with a chip on his shoulder, but what happened to him this season probably has made that chip bigger.

His reputation of not being a good practice player and having a volatile personality could have contributed to his being unemployed for so long.

There also is the trend of teams looking for pick-and-pop big men. Martin sets hard picks and he'll pop guys here and there, but he's not a pick-and-pop guy in the classic sense. Still, his defensive toughness and the heart he plays with are invaluable to teams and could be a big plus for the Knicks in the playoffs.

"Somebody was going to sign him for a playoff run, and it was probably going to be a pretty good team," Mike Woodson said. "I'm just glad we were able to jump on board and get it done because who knows where we would have been if he weren't here. It's good to have him."

In his younger years, Martin was the heart and soul of the Jason Kidd-led Nets teams that reached back-to-back NBA Finals. He also played an enforcer role on Carmelo Anthony's Nuggets.

Last season, Martin's defense helped the Clippers advance to the second round of the playoffs, but they signed Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf and let Martin walk. The Celtics showed interest during the offseason and needed big men, but they settled on Chris Wilcox, and signed D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph in-season.

The Knicks had Martin on their radar, especially after Rasheed Wallace got injured. But Martin remained unsigned until the Knicks cleared a roster spot by dealing Ronnie Brewer to Oklahoma City for a draft pick at the trade deadline.

Martin didn't get minutes at first, but his defense against Kevin Durant March 7 earned him a regular spot in the rotation.

Then, with Tyson Chandler sidelined because of a neck injury and Amar'e Stoudemire, Wallace and Kurt Thomas out for the rest of the regular season, Martin became a starter six games ago. He continues to make an impact.

"I know how Kenyon can play," Anthony said. "I know what he's capable of doing, especially on this team. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for him right now with guys being out to showcase that. He was coming back trying to prove himself. What better way to prove it than stepping up to the challenge."

Scorching Heat

When Miami's remarkable 25-game winning streak began, the Heat and Knicks were neck-and-neck. Miami was 29-14 on Feb. 3, just percentage points ahead of the 30-15 Knicks.

If the Heat had lost to Toronto that day, Woodson would have coached the East All-Stars. But the Heat won that game and every one since, and the Knicks have gone 11-11 before Saturday night.

The 1971-72 Lakers hold the NBA record of 33 straight victories. The Heat's next eight games are against Charlotte, at Orlando, at Chicago, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, against the Knicks, at Charlotte and against Philadelphia.James'

Happy return

During LeBron James' return to Cleveland on Wednesday, a fan ran on the court wearing a T-shirt that read "We miss you" on the front and "2014 come back" on the other side.

James can be a free agent next summer, and there are rumblings that he might re-sign with the Cavaliers. When he was asked about it, he said, "Right now, I'm focused on right now."

James was friendly to the fan, patting his head before security took him away.

"He said he missed me and come back, please," James said.Kidd's streak

Jason Kidd is headed to the postseason for the 17th consecutive year.

"That's a good record," he said. "I better not press it, huh? That just means I've been on some good teams with some great guys. The goal is to make it to the playoffs. You want to give yourself an opportunity. That's what it's all about -- that next season.''

John Stockton and Karl Malone made the postseason 19 straight years.

Thomas' future

Kurt Thomas, out with a stress reaction/stress fracture in his right foot, hopes he can return for the playoffs and hasn't ruled out playing a 19th season at age 41.

"I still love to play,'' Thomas said. "If I can definitely come back from this injury, I'll definitely keep playing . . . I just have to keep my head up and continue to do what I do every summer, prepare for the next training camp.''

Thomas would be the 10th man to play after turning 41. Knicks assistant Herb Williams is the seventh-oldest. He was 41 years and 75 days old in his last regular-season game.

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