K-Mart's Style is an Apple from the Oak Tree

In case you care, the K-Mart/Cuban feud refuses to die. HoopsHype has the latest, including this gem of a line about Kenyon Martin's style of play: "There is a World Wrestling Entertainment event scheduled for later this month at the Pepsi Center. But watching Martin fans sometimes feel they’ve already been treated to a steel-cage match." That guy is a raging animal, right? ↵
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↵However, shortly thereafter, we get this glimpse into Martin's past, and maybe what made him into such a maniac: ↵
↵⇥When Martin broke into the NBA in 2000, he was tough. But he was no Charles Oakley. But Oakley, then an aging pro who had broke into the NBA in 1986 as Chicago’s head henchman during the early days of Jordan’s brilliance, was around to show the young Martin how to throw his weight around while at least sometimes staying within the rules. ↵⇥
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↵⇥"Charles Oakley, hands down," Martin said about the toughest player he ever faced. "You watch what I’m doing to these young guys, that’s what Oak did to me. (Oakley showed Martin) all of that stuff, man. He told me stuff that is legal to a certain degree." ↵
↵If you have your notes in front of you, turn back to my post on the meaning of a thug. Martin's discussed, here and elsewhere, like some kind of felon with a jersey. Yet here he is, tracing his game directly back to Charles Oakley. Now, no one thinks of Oak as a saint, or the epitome of good, clean basketball. But he does, for several generations, exemplify NBA muscle. These aren't hockey goons; they're the guys who make sure no basket comes too easy. It's not a question of "playoff basketball;" it's about the game not looking like a farce. ↵
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↵Okay, maybe that should be the job of shot-blockers. Or lockdown defenders. But until recently, the paint was supposed to be a temple. One with snakes and fire and certain death. Going in there meant beating the guy on you, and evading a long arm. But it also meant risking harm at the hands of the likes of Oakley or Martin. No easy buckets. Admit it, isn't it a little embarrassing when you see a guard saunter into the lane for an uncontested layup? This is coming from a fan of high-scoring games and teams like D'Antoni's Suns. Sometimes, though, it gets so silly you want to scream like Jeff Van Gundy does on this very subject. ↵
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↵That doesn't even take into account what these guys mean for the art of rebounding (even if K-Mart's numbers have always been a little lacking there), or how their bully-ish ways can affect the offensive end. Like it or not, physicality is a tried and true part of the basketball tradition. That Martin happens to have tattoos and play this way is pure coincidence. There are plenty of tatted up guards who never even take charges. The point is, if you dismiss Martin on style alone, you're taking down a lot of big names with him. Including a certain famous Bull who leaned heavily on Oakley.
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↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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