K.J. Martin looks to build on rookie season success

K.J. Martin looks to improve after exceeding expectations as a rookie
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Las Vegas (SportsRadio 610)- At the ripe age of 20-years old, K.J. Martin is a veteran, at least compared to his teammates on the Rockets Summer League team.

Martin is competing in Vegas with an entire NBA season under his belt and as crazy as it sounds, he is one of the longest tenured players on the Rockets roster, which puts him in position to be a leader on a Summer League squad loaded with teenagers.

“Since I was there last season we’re teaching the new guys how to do things around here, how we play offense and then defensively,” Martin said after the Rockets first Summer League game. “That's really my whole goal, to help these new, young guys.”

He was the young guy last season, joining a team of veterans after his selection in the second round of the 2020 draft. Playing time was sparse early on, but after a successful run in the G League, Martin returned and played in every game after the All Star Break, averaging 10.4 point and 5.9 rebounds per game in more than 26 minutes. The improvements were drastic then, but he’s better now.

“Just my confidence, finding my spots on the floor, and continuing just to do what I bring to the table every night.”

Martin showed his confidence boost by the way he fired up shots after returning from the G League bubble. He attempted just four three pointers in seven games prior to his stint with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, making just one, but upon his return, he shot over 37 percent from long range, and was attempting almost three per game. Martin says he sped up his release, but that wasn’t the only reason why those shots started dropping.

“It was really just my confidence, really just believing in myself that it was going in. I put in the work, so once I got a feel for it and the rhythm, it started to go in.”

The improved three-point shooting was on display during Martin’s first two games in Vegas. He shot 3-of-8 from three against the Cavs on Sunday, while draining half of his four attempts against the Pistons on Tuesday. His improved three-point shooting is evident, but he’s worked on other areas of his game as well.

“You see some of the playmaking he's doing for others,” Rockets assistant and Summer League head coach Will Weaver said. “He is a very strong driver, obviously, the ability to jump, like he can, means people have to meet him super early, and you get the defense on rotation early.

“He's doing a really nice job passing with both hands out of those driving kick situations, so we're trying to put in as many of those situations as we can, and he's doing a great job of getting those reps and completing those reps.”

K.J. Martin contributed more during his rookie season than the Rockets thought he would, and as he gets ready for his second NBA season he says he wants to build on his success.

“Continue to bring what I brought to the table last year, just energy on defense, and being able to hit open shots and continue to use my athleticism and just build off of there.”