They've gone 29-9 in games he's missed since signing a seven-year, $93 million contract two years ago, including 19-6 this year as his surgically-repaired left knee limited him to a
career-low 56 games.
But can they have similar success in the playoffs after he was suspended Tuesday night for conduct detrimental to the team? They are already down 0-2 to the Clippers with Game 3 coming up Thursday
"It'd be tough," center Marcus Camby acknowledged. "He's a
big part of what we do around here."
Not for the foreseeable future, he isn't.
Martin decided to sit out the second half of Denver's Game 2 loss against the Clippers on Monday night after playing just seven minutes in the first half. He was suspended indefinitely by coach George Karl, who consulted with his coaching staff, his general manager and team owner Stan Kroenke.
Martin and Karl exchanged words during halftime Monday night, after which Martin took several minutes to join his teammates on the bench and then sat with a towel over his head for the remainder of Denver's 98-87 loss.
"I do give Kenyon some understanding that he's going through a tough year," Karl said. "I know he's very frustrated. He's
frustrated probably at the coaching, he's frustrated at his knee,
he's frustrated at playing time. That's all part of basketball, but
his actions were not team-worthy and weren't respectful to the
Karl said Martin would miss at least the next two playoff games.
"We've got to roll with it and just move on," Carmelo Anthony
said. "Everybody's got to pick up the slack."
General manager Kiki Vandeweghe said he spoke with Martin and
found him contrite: "He wants to be helping his team. Let's just
leave it at that."
Vandeweghe would not say what Martin must do to get reinstated.
Karl said he was open to repairing the relationship but only on
his time, and right now he's got his hands full with the Clippers,
who are in command in the best-of-seven series.
"I'm a part of this failure," Karl said. "I'm a part of the
relationship. His actions are what created my actions, but
developing a relationship sometimes takes time and I think Kenyon's
a damn good basketball player, has a competitive heart that I love.
He has defensive skills that I respect and want on my team."
Karl said he told Martin's agent, Brian Dyke, that he mended
fences with Gary Payton in Seattle after the two had a falling out
in their second season together. Karl would like to do the same
"I think I can get better because of this and hopefully he
feels the same way," Karl said.
Martin, who was barred from the team's practice facility, missed
25 games during the regular season and was limited in several
others, mostly because of tendinitis in his left knee following
offseason surgery. He sat out practices and played sparingly over
the last several weeks with hopes of being able to start and play
30-35 minutes a night in the playoffs.
"I've told Kenyon, I've told you this, I've told his agent
this: he was not capable in my opinion of playing 30 minutes a game
in the way I want him to play basketball," Karl said. "I know he
wanted to, I know his heart thought he could, and that's great
because that's a great courage of a great competitor.
"But you know physically he wasn't capable of doing that, in my
opinion. And that hasn't changed since probably January."
The Clippers didn't seem surprised by Martin's suspension.
"They are looking for something," suggested Brand. "They
started different lineups. They might need that for their morale
and to get their guys together."
Clippers floor leader Sam Cassell said he understands how much
emphasis Karl places on practice after playing for him in Milwaukee
for several seasons, but "we have our own concerns, our own
problems. We have a couple of guys who have to get it going."
Clippers coach Mike
Dunleavy said the suspension "could be used
as a positive, as a rallying point for this team." He advised his
players not to view the Nuggets as a less formidable opponent
Karl is much more mellow in Denver than he was in Seattle or
Milwaukee, where he often criticized his players in public with
Still, Martin has tested his patience.
"I came here wanting to be a basketball coach and not wanting
to be a politician, not wanting to be a disciplinarian," Karl
said. "I like the gym. I like being with the team and I like
coaching. And this is not a fun part of coaching."