[Cartier Martin shoots a jumper near the onlooking Ernie Grunfeld and Flip Saunders.]
One thing I’ll take from being around Cartier Martin is that he’s an earnest guy. No frills. No shadowing of his persona. Just a guy named Cartier.
He was out there communicating with his summer league teammates, trying to be leader … not because such acts make him look good, but because they make the whole team look good. This point was driven home when I spoke with Martin about what he would’ve done differently since pursuing a pro career after college.
“I picked up the work ethic kind of late,” he readily admitted, something many players wouldn’t be so willing to shed light upon. He said it took being away from his family and the unideal pursuit of basketball money overseas to realize that he needed to work on his intangibles.
Martin’s best summer league game came in the Wizards’ third outing against the Mavericks, where he served as the perfect compliment to John Wall. Twenty-three points (6-11 FGs, 3-5 3PM, 8-10 FTs), five rebounds, an assist, a steal and a turnover later, my friend Mr. Townsend was getting all Buddhistic about The Cartier Affair.
Martin didn’t fare so well the next night. He only scored three points on 1-10 shooting with just two trips to the free-throw line, where he missed one. He still did work on the boards with six rebounds, along with two assists, a steal and only one turnover.
Then there was the fifth and final game against the Knicks. Offensively, Martin bounced back, scoring 24 points on 9-16 from the field, 3-7 from deep and 3-3 from the line. He also secured four rebounds, two assists and two steals in his 33 minutes. Most players might be satisfied with this effort, especially the three points to 24 points part. Not Cartier.
Afterward, I asked him about his “bounce back” game. He refused to call it that.
“Naw, wasn’t a bounce-back game … not with six turnovers in the fourth quarter. That’s not ‘bounce back’,” Martin told me.
He’s makes a good point. Two of those six turnovers helped give the game away to New York right at the end — one being a careless pass by Martin that went errant and another being a questionable charge call against him, albeit one where he put himself in the situation for the ref to blow the whistle in the first place.
Martin hasn’t always been a turnover machine. In his first four summer games, he only gave the ball away five times in 111 minutes — 1.6 per 36 minutes. This is only slightly above the 1.5 turnovers per 36 Martin has given up in his 51 NBA game appearances. In four years at Kansas State, where his usage were certainly much higher, Martin only averaged 2.2 turnovers per 36 minutes.
“I’m a more experienced player. I have to take care of the ball a little better. There’s no excuses. I don’t have any excuses,” prescribed Martin. He gave himself a ‘C’ (“minus maybe”) when I asked him to grade his overall summer league play.
“The first two games, I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I wanted … got it going a little bit in the third game … yesterday was terrible … today I shot it a little better, but it’s not where I expect myself to be,” said Martin last Saturday.
I asked Martin if he found any positives from his summer league experience.
“Defensively, I found a few positives,” Martin said. “I guarded a little better than I have in the past. But you know, there’s more than one phase than defense. If I’m going to be part of the team, I have to help the team in other ways. I didn’t rebound the ball as well as I wanted to (he averaged 4.0 per game). To be a bigger guard, I have to rebound a lot better. I just have to pick my game up man.”
Martin said he would be back home in Houston to train for the next couple of weeks and wait to see if he hears anything from the team. Neither Flip Saunders nor Ernie Grunfeld would comment on his status, or any of the other on-the-cusp players for that matter, as they exited summer league.
“Hopefully the Wizards will consider bringing me back to training camp at least. If not, I’m going to try to take my talents somewhere else. Hopefully it’s [in Washington]. I’m comfortable here. I would love to be part of the team, but it’s not my call at the end of the day,” Martin concluded.
“I just have to keep doing what I do, continue to try to get better, and … live life,” a smile crept across Martin’s face as he said those last two words.
He’s comfortable with himself — he’s honest with himself — in that he knows he’s now capable of working to his potential as he pursues the game he loves. Remember, this is the guy who admitted that he wasn’t always a hard worker, which partially indicates how far he’s come, especially when factoring in stories of Martin arriving to a D-League practice four hours early the day after a flight from Italy.
But Martin still isn’t satisfied. This is clear from the look of hunger that a couple disappointing summer league outings brought to his face.
Maybe Wizards team management will ultimately decide that Martin doesn’t fit in their plans. With such frail, mediocre rebounders already on the roster in the post, maybe they want a player who can rebound better from the wing. Maybe they’ll chase a bigger name, or a more experienced veteran (both cases, however, likely being more expensive options).
But in the end, Cartier Martin is the type of guy you want on your team. And that team, wherever it may be, will be lucky to have him.
[Cartier Martin provides some direction to summer league teammate Lester Hudson.]