NEW YORK — Three weeks ago, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald viewed Kenyon Martin as “insurance” against the declining health of ancient big men Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby.
As it turns out, Martin — no spring chicken at 35 himself — may end up being the Knicks’ best insurance policy now that Amar’e Stoudemire is done for the regular season — at least — with right knee debridement.
“I’ve been blessed to be here so I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity,” Martin said after going 4-of-6 for 10 points, six rebounds and two steals Saturday night as the Knicks crushed the Utah Jazz, 113-84, in their first game since learning of Stoudemire’s injury.
“It’s unfortunate that you have to benefit from somebody’s injury. But we all know that injuries are part of the game, so we try and take advantage of it.”
Ironically, Grunwald initially traded away Ronnie Brewer and brought in Martin to back up Wallace and Camby, or at least he said so at the time. The Knicks’ GM may have wondered how long Stoudemire’s knees could keep up, even with a 30-minute limit per game.
On March 5, the Knicks (38-22) signed Martin to a second 10-day contract, meaning they will soon have to make a decision about keeping the No. 1 pick of the 2000 NBA Draft for the rest of the season. At this point, that seems a foregone conclusion.
“We’ve always liked Kenyon, he’s a great competitor and a good defender and he’s played with a number of our players on the Knicks so we think that there will be some synergies already built into the mix,” Grunwald said Feb. 21 when Martin was first brought to the team on a 10-day contract.
“We’re just looking forward to adding another good defender who will help us in our quest this season.”
As the Knicks embark on a five-game West Coast road swing Monday night at Golden State, Carmelo Anthony remains questionable with a sore right knee. New York is 4-5 this season without Anthony.
Martin, meantime, could continue to play an increasing roll going forward. After not having played since Feb. 27, Martin got more than 21 minutes against Utah and 17 in the game before that against Oklahoma City.
“He showed he definitely has something left: He played Kevin Durant, one of the best players in this league, as tough as you can play him,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks told the Daily News. “I had Kenyon in Denver when I coached there, and he still brings toughness, he brings a defensive mentality, he just brings winning basketball plays.”
With Wallace (fractured foot) and now Stoudemire both done for the regular season, Martin could now be pivotal, assuming he stays healthy.
“I’m good, as long as I get my rest, take care of my body, eating right,” Martin said. “We got an excellent staff around here to make sure you’re doing the right things with your body, so I’m good.”
He sounds like a good soldier and said it doesn’t bother him that Knicks coach Mike Woodson sat him for four straight games before the Thunder contest.
“No, man, I’m just waiting my turn, man. I’m just waiting my turn being patient,” he said. “The time will come, and when I’m out there just let my play speak for itself.”