The Knicks barely made a splash as the trade deadline came and went, but they ultimately could’ve made the biggest waves in the race to Eastern Conference supremacy, as they added hulking power forward Kenyon Martin.
The addition of the 6-foot-9 Martin, via 10-day contract, came as the Knicks traded swingman Ronnie Brewer to Oklahoma City for a future second-round pick and cash considerations. Knicks team president and general manager Glen Grunwald was adamant in noting that Brewer never forced the team’s hand, even if he was reportedly unhappy with his diminished role.
"Ronnie had fallen out of the playing rotation," Grunwald said. "He's a good guy and good player, but an opportunity came up for him and we wanted to help him out the best we could. In doing that, we created roster flexibility to add someone like Kenyon. ... I want to make it clear that Ronnie didn't demand a trade. But I'm proud to say that we always try to help our players the best we can."
The Knicks not only helped out Brewer, but perhaps their own cause, as Martin is a dogged defender, solid rebounder, popular teammate wherever he's played and a legitimate tough guy. Should Rasheed Wallace or Marcus Camby fail to come back 100 percent and contribute the way they had prior to their respective foot injuries, Martin can certainly pick up the slack. He gives the Knicks a great energy guy who has no problem flexing his muscle. The Knicks will need him to do so — along with Tyson Chandler — because the Pacers’ frontline may be the league’s best and deepest, the Bulls have Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer and the Nets have Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries.
Martin hasn’t played since the end of last season, but Grunwald said the forward is in great shape, adding that Martin’s recent workout impressed the brass enough to take a flier on him.
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“We’ve watched a lot of his tape from last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and we already knew that he was working out prior to coming here,” Grunwald said. “We're hopeful he still has what it takes to still be a very good player.”
If he plays anything last season (8.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per-36 minutes), then the Knicks might’ve stolen a vital player. Martin was lauded as a "versatile defender who can guard three positions" by Grunwald, who sounded excited at the prospect of adding a guy who will endear himself to the Garden faithful with his tenacity, hustle and willingness to play defense.
Martin, who was unavailable for comment, won't play Friday night, and it's unlikely he'll play Sunday against Philadelphia, as Brewer must first pass his physical in Oklahoma City. But when the physical forward finally dons the orange and blue, he'll certainly be a great addition as the Knicks have literally added muscle to try and overthrow the Heat (37-14), while holding off the likes of the hard-charging Nets (33-22), Pacers (33-21) and Bulls (31-22).
» Grunwald also put an end to the Iman Shumpert rumors saying the shooting guard wasn’t going anywhere, as the Knicks never really entertained offers for Shumpert: "Shump is a key part of our future. He's coming back from a difficult injury, but we're optimistic he'll return to his form very shortly.
»In regards to the recent defensive struggles, mounting frustration and injuries, Grunwald said that’s going to happen during the marathon of an 82-game season: “We're optimistic we’ll get better. We’re not concerned. The season has ebbs and flows to it. Obviously we have to play better, but teams will go through that. I'm confident that Woody [Knicks head coach Mike Woodson] will get this team to playing winning basketball again. … We have a veteran team and they know where they need to improve, particularly in keeping composure. ... As far as guys getting hurt, that's why we have a pretty deep team, so hopefully we can withstand these things. But I don’t think we've had more injuries than the average team. As long as we're playing up to our potential and playing well heading into the playoffs, that’s our goal.”
»Grunwald scoffed when asked if management is unhappy that some players with high price tags, namely Amar’e Stoudemire and his $100 million contract, are coming off the bench: “The salary doesn’t matter. What matters is how we put together our team. And if that means Amar’e is coming off the bench, then great. We're all just trying to win, so it doesn’t matter who comes off the bench. … Amar’e has been a true professional and a great teammate.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.