Kenyon Martin Wants a Contract Extension

If you say the name Kenyon Martin to a Denver Nuggets fan, you are likely setting yourself up for a tirade.  It could be a mini-tirade, or it could be an overly verbose tirade.  Most fans have a difficult time looking past the massive 7 year, $92 million contract that Kiki Vandeweghe gave Martin as part of a sign and trade with the Nets back in the summer of 2004.

The Nets, led by former owner Bruce Ratner, were looking to cut costs, yet Vandeweghe was afraid that New Jersey would take advantage of Martin’s restricted status and match Denver’s six year, $70 million offer sheet.  Despite all reports to the contrary, Vandeweghe choose to give up three first round picks, all of which ended up outside the lottery, in order to avoid waiting the 14 days to find out what everyone suspected, that the Nets would not match the offer sheet.  As a result by doing a sign and trade, Denver could give Martin a seventh year on his deal and larger annual raises.

Martin’s contract was a heavy price to pay, I remember personally being irked that Denver gave up the three first round picks and thought his contract was a little too high, however, Martin seemed to be a near perfect fit as a defensive minded power forward who could run the floor and jump out of the gym.  Kenyon’s lone weakness was his lack of a low post game.  I also remember thinking he was undersized and studied his game log for how the big time power forwards in the west performed against him.  I expected to see a list of huge games by the likes of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan when they played New Jersey, however, to my surprise, their numbers were largely pedestrian.  At that point I had hope that Kenyon would be the player that Denver needed to push them from a playoff team, to a contending team.

Denver did win 49 games in Kenyon’s first season in Denver thanks to a late season push spurred on by the hiring of George Karl.  The Nuggets ended up losing a tough first round series to the Spurs that spring, but the foundation seemed to have been laid for Denver to contend in 2005-06.

Kenyon quietly had surgery after the season, but by all reports it was nothing to be concerned about.  He was expected to be fine for training camp and would be back to full strength in plenty of time for Denver to make the leap we all expected.  For some reason, Kenyon was not at full strength come training camp and he was struggling with swelling and pain in his knee.  Kenyon did take the court on opening night and played in Denver’s first six games.  He then missed the seventh and only played eight minutes in the eighth before sitting out four more games due to his knee.

Fans began to turn on Kenyon wondering why he was not healthy.  The team told everyone he was going to be healthy, but he clearly was not and Kenyon took the blame.  It was not until later in the season that the Nuggets announced Kenyon had undergone the dreaded microfracture procedure in May of 2005.  The truth is Kenyon probably should not have even been running, let alone playing in a game.  However, the damage had been done.  Kenyon was now overpaid and unhealthy.  That spring when he was kicked off the bench by George Karl during the first half of game two of Denver’s first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers and suspended for the remainder of the series, which lasted all of five games, Kenyon was public enemy number one in Denver.

Heading into 2006-07 Kenyon was now fully recovered from his microfracture surgery.  Plus he and Karl had patched things up and Martin was hoping for a bounce back season.  In a major blow to the Nuggets and Kenyon personally, Martin only played in two games and was forced to have microfracture surgery again, this time on his other knee.  Kenyon had gone from a disappointment to a free agent bust.  He was now viewed as the worst thing that could have happened to the Nuggets.  After three seasons he had played in just over half of Denver’s regular season games (128 games played out of a total 246) and now the Nuggets had four more seasons of his massive salary to weigh them down.

He was untradeable, unable to play and generally unwanted.

It would have been easy for Kenyon to give up, collect his millions and feel sorry for himself.  Many players failed to recover from a single microfracture surgery, let alone two.  In a display of determination and heart, Martin rehabbed his other knee and came back at full strength once again for the 2007-08 season.

Kenyon is not the dominating defensive force he once was.  However, he is still one of the better post defenders in the league and over the previous three seasons he has played in nearly 80% of Denver’s regular season games (195 of 246) and more importantly, he has not missed a single playoff game over those three seasons.  He has not clashed with Karl and has been a leader on the court on the defensive end of the floor.

In looking back at his first six seasons in Denver, I believe Kenyon has taken the blame for the mistakes of others.  It was Vandeweghe who not only overpaid Kenyon, but also gave up the three picks to have the right to do so.  Kenyon and his representatives were certainly pushing for Denver to work a sign and trade in order to earn the higher raises with the extra year on the contract, but never once do I remember reading that Martin refused to sign the offer sheet.  It was the Nuggets front office who feared the Nets would match the offer that triggered the sign and trade.

Secondly, had fans been made aware that Kenyon underwent microfracture surgery in May of 2005, he would have been viewed as some kind of conquering hero for even being on the court to start the season instead of some kind of slow-healing wimp for struggling to return.

Denver is guilty of overpaying Kenyon, giving up too much to sign him and not alerting fans to the extent of his injury in 2005, but Kenyon is the one who has paid the price.

I have always thought Kenyon was an extremely hard worker who was willing to do the dirty work to help Denver in games.  You can imagine my disappointment then when Martin proclaimed that because the Nuggets have not granted him a contract extension he is going to take his time coming back from his current knee injury.

The 32-year-old forward is battling back from knee surgery he underwent in June. But without an extension, Martin said he will take his time returning to the team. If he had an extension, “I’d be playing right now.”

“I’m not rushing whatsoever. The day I come back is the day I come back,” Martin said. “Think about it: Ain’t nobody in a hurry to give me a contract, so why would I be in a hurry to rush back and risk further injury? Makes all the sense in the world, right? Trust me, I’ve thought about it plenty.

Kenyon apparently believes Denver gave the money that should have been his to Al Harrington.

I think Kenyon may be posturing a little here.  In the Denver Post article he claims if he had been offered an extension, he would be playing right now.  However, in the ESPN.com story, he says that he is doing everything that Dr. Richard Steadman, the world renowned knee specialist who performed the surgery, has instructed him to do.  That leaves me to believe that his proclamation he would be on the court right now is not entirely accurate as Dr. Steadman has obviously not cleared him to resume basketball activities.

Whether Kenyon could be on the court right now or not, his comments are troubling.  He points out that he was injured through the wear and tear of doing his job with the Nuggets and that they owe him.  What he does not point out, and as we have previously discussed, is that he was handsomely compensated.  NBA players seem to have this silly notion that they are paid in advance.  Kenyon wants to know he is getting his money next year so that he will work hard this year.

The truth is, and this is something someone close to Kenyon needs to explain to him, he is being paid a tanker load of money, $16.5 million, but who is counting, this season to work his butt off to get back on the court now.  Apparently, that $16.5 million is payment for what Kenyon has already done because it is guaranteed.  It is certainly possible Kenyon will never make another dime playing basketball after this season and despite the fact Kenyon is getting paid this season unless he starts running over old ladies or shooting at traffic copters from his house he still has to own up to the responsibility to earn every penny that will come his way for the 2010-11 season.

Kenyon may have been unfairly labeled as the bad guy through no fault of his own in the past.  This time, no one can take any blame for the backlash he is due other than himself.

  • http://mergenchuluun.com Mergen

    well said. kmart is a tough-nosed defensive player and a leader by example. melo could definitely learn a thing or two from kmart, pride and effort on the defensive end. before i get too far off topic, i probably would prefer kmart over al jefferson for the same money over the next 3-4 years

  • DH

    When I first heard about this, I was so appalled that I wrote a long rant in the DP comments. I’m going to repeat it here, although I don’t normally do that. Sorry, but I’m still ticked. I agree with Jeremy that Kenyon is underrated as a player and that he has been, at times, unjustly criticized. But his comments are indefensible. It doesn’t matter to me if he is cleared to play right now or not. He clearly makes the point that his return from injury should be related to his contract status. And it’s the thought that counts.

    —————————————————-

    If he had an extension, “I’d be playing right now.”

    What?????? I can’t believe these are his quotes (actually, sadly, I guess I can). I think I value his on-court contributions more than most people do. And I don’t want him to come back until he is fully healthy – no matter what his contract status is. But for him to say he would play now if the Nugs “show him the money”, but he’ll take his time if they don’t, is the most outrageous thing I’ve heard probably since Latrell Sprewell.

    The things he says are so clueless that I almost feel dumb responding to them. But, here we go…

    $90 million dollars, Kenyon. $90 MILLION dollars! That doesn’t make you feel respected? How about $16.5M? That’s what you’re making this year to sulk, sit, and feel disrespected. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are making around $14.5M this year. I did a quick Google search of “worst NBA contracts”. The first 3 lists I looked at had yours in the top 10 – and 2 of them had yours in the top 5. How can you not feel lucky? How can you not feel a little guilty? How can you complain about anything after what you got – and are still getting – from the Nuggets?

    “Ain’t nobody in a hurry to give me a contract, so why would I be in a hurry to rush back and risk further injury? Makes all the sense in the world, right?” No, Kenyon. No it does not make sense. It might sound like it makes sense to you. And it’s good for getting you worked up. But you know what makes real sense? “The Nuggets are paying me $16.5M to do the job I love. I can’t wait to get back as soon as I’m healthy to earn what I’m making and to help the team.” Now that makes sense. You already HAVE a contract. A BIG one. Honor it.

    Kenyon, you might not have noticed, but this team is in turmoil. The only Nuggets definitely under contract for next year are Birdman, Balkman, and Harrington. The only player currently offered an extension is Melo. There are 13 players on the Nuggets who have not been offered a new contract. Should they all be crying and sitting? Are they all being disrepected? Or do the Nuggets have a brand new GM, a superstar who is trying to leave, and a million questions about which direction to go next year? They might decide to start over with a youth movement, for all anyone knows. Does this sound like the time for them to be worrying about anyone’s future contract – especially that of a player who is currently injured for the 97th time? C’mon. Get real.

    In the original article, you compare the Al Harrington signing to your contract. That’s where a lot of your anger seems to come from. Harrington has nothing to do with you. So you play the same position. So what? You already had a contract. He didn’t. You were already on the Nuggets. He wasn’t. You are injured. He isn’t. His strength (perimeter scoring) is the opposite of yours, so you complement each other. He doesn’t replace you. The Nuggets had to add a big (in part, because you and Bird were injured), and he was available. The Nuggets overpaid for him, because they ran out of options. It’s not about respect. It’s just circumstance. Get over it.

    I remember an article a couple of years ago in which you were asked if you would be willing to renegotiate your contract to help the team gain some financial flexibility and add some needed pieces. You said, in effect, “no f’ing way”. You said you earned every penny you were making and you weren’t sacrificing anything for the team (financially). But you want the Nuggets to stop right now, ignore everything else that’s going on, and make everything about Kenyon Martin? I guess when I think about it, it makes sense. You really do seem to think that everything is about you and only you. What a shame, because you are a very good player when healthy. But for the first time, I think the Nuggets would be crazy to bring you back at any price. Just my opinion.

  • JR15

    Didn’t those 3 picks from the KMart trade turn into Balkman, Joey Graham, and Marcus Williams.
    We basically got 2 of our 3 picks back, so the 3 picks wasn’t a big deal, the money was the problem in the KMart deal.

  • DH

    JR15… Good point, but who’s to say the Nuggets would have drafted as poorly as the other teams did? Oh wait. It’s the Nuggets. Never mind.

  • Andy

    My prediction for K-Mart this season: the Nuggets ship his attitude and albatross contract out before the season starts for a decent big (perhaps Biedrins) in hopes of keeping Carmelo. K-Mart comes back in December and goes on a tear (like he did after the all-star snub when he played for NJ) and averages double doubles for the rest of the season. Next year, some sucker team with cap space (think NJ, again) re-signs him with the MLE for several years. He then promptly tears his other patella tendon and never makes it back to the court, instead becoming a contract journeyman and still ranting about he never got respect from the Nuggets.

  • Clayton

    J you make some GREAT points… it’s not all his fault that he is public enemy #1 here on the Nugs… Kiki really tied our hands for YEARS with his deal. But still today, something just is fishy when someone refuses to play but complains about not getting the contract. He has GOT to know by know that his best commodity at this point in his career is that his monster contract finally expires at the end of the season. Maybe he just has “deer in headlights” reflex with the CBA expiring and the prospect of being unemployed during what looks to be a long negotiation period.

    I see the Nugs off-loading him by trade-deadline. Hopefully like Andy says, to GS for Biedrins. But no matter who/what they get, that won’t be enough to keep Melo. And KMart will play well and tough enough for Mark Cuban to fork over enough mid-level exception for him to bring his broken wheels home to Dallas.

    Thanks KMart – for what you have done, and for what could have been when healthy.

  • aussie nugs fan

    Its a real shame we couldn’t get somebody like beidrins in earlier. Does anybody else think that if we had a legit centre Nene could do some serious damage at PF? birdman is really only good in bursts and then kmart could have just added bench depth. Front line depth has certainly been one of our weaknesses the last two seasons.

  • Chris

    I know most people will disagree, but when Cambi was here Nene looked clueless in the four. I think he is in fact an undersized center.

  • Jason Shook

    A ‘Legit Center’ like Beidrins? Like oh say Marcus Camby?
    yeah tried that, didn’ work all that great.

  • Jason Shook

    Oops, Chris beat me too it. Should have refreshed before posting. I have to agree with Chris about the undersized center coment.

  • runningdonut

    Appreciate your comments on this Jeremy – I was looking forward to reading it. Respectfully I find it absurd to say Kenyon has somehow unfairly paid the price for Denver’s mistakes. Denver has paid the price – over $90 million, unwavering loyalty and financial support for six years of disappointment. We’re now left without an ounce of gratitude at the end of it – in fact, Kenyon responds with nothing but disdain. I personally find that your thinly veiled criticism here actually does more to justify Kenyon’s actions rather than condemn it.

    I guess this is something we’re always going to disagree on. Kenyon being one of the better post defenders in the league I agree with to a certain extent. I don’t believe he can maintain that for much longer, and I am continually baffled by how his severe shortcomings on the offensive end are ignored despite the fact that they greatly affect his impact and ability to help Denver win games. Playing 80% of his games the past three years does not prove he’s no longer injury prone – it only goes to show that he’s played at much less than 100% often and continues to be on the decline.

    Nene’s emergence as a starter had more to do with Denver’s recent success than Kenyon’s short lived resurrection. I look forward to continuing our friendly disagreement should you maintain that even a mid-level long term extension for him would be warranted or even a good idea.

    One thing I’m almost sure we can agree on though – Denver did the right thing waiting for a new CBA and the Melo departure to play out before giving the tiniest thought to extending Kenyon. In that, they’re totally justified – unlike Kenyon in every way possible

  • http://www.shattertheglass.com rice1383

    Regardless of what happens with Melo and this season, the Nuggets are better off just hoping they can get a few good performances out of Martin. Contract extension? Why give a 32-year old with consistent health concerns an extension, regardless of how good is in the post. He will keep playing after life in Denver though. The Knicks will give him a check once they fail to sign Melo or any other superstars and take nothing with the fourteenth pick next year.