With two veteran starters sent packing, the 25-year-old Kevin Martin finds himself in the role of team leader.
Kevin Martin's league-leading 8.2 free throws made per game last season was the most by a member of the Kings since Tiny Archibald knocked down 8.3 for Kansas City-Omaha in 1972-73.
Record: 38-44 (11th in West) Points scored: 102.5 (8th in NBA) Points allowed: 104.8 (24th)
A shooting guard is the one shining light for a franchise in the midst of major rebuilding
In the past eight months Kevin Martin has seen stalwarts Mike Bibbyshipped to Atlanta and Ron Artest to Houston as part of the franchise's rebuilding plan.But don't expect Martin, a rising star himself, to suddenly call himself theking of the Kings. "I want to be a leader," Martin says, "but I want to do it byworking hard and helping our young guys get to the next level."
Last year Martin, 25, took his own game to the next level, finishing sixth inthe league in scoring. The 6-foot-7 shooting guard was coolly efficient,racking up 23.7 points on just 15.0 shots. He splashed three-pointers, slashedto the rim and cashed in more free throws per game than any other player in theNBA.
But Martin knows it won't be as easy without Artest around to draw defensiveattention. That's why he spent several weeks during the off-season with notedbasketball trainer David Thorpe in Bradenton, Fla., working on subtle aspects ofhis game that he felt he needed to improve, such as finishing to his left andshooting threes from the top of the key. "Ron and I took pressure off oneanother," Martin says. "Teams couldn't double us both. It's something I'm goingto have to get used to this year."
He will also have to get used to losing more games, as youngsters such asfirst-round picks Jason Thompson and Donté Greene gain experience."I'm comfortable with [rebuilding], but I don't want guys to think it's O.K. tolose," Martin says. "It's never O.K. We're going out to compete, and I'm notafraid to let the guys know it."
Even if he won't say so, the Kings are clearly Kevin Martin's team now. -- Marty Burns
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