ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported today that the Miami Heat are among five teams interested in signing free agent power forward Kenyon Martin. The Spurs, Clippers, Hawks and Knicks are also interested in signing the 11-year veteran, Broussard said. Martin signed a contract with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers during the lockout; the CBA allowed NBA players to join the league last summer, but mandated that they could not have opt-out clauses to return to the NBA once the lockout ended.
The former New Jersey Net and Denver Nugget left Xinjiang in December and can sign with an NBA team as soon as Xinjiang’s season ends, which could come as early as the Feb. 16 end to the regular season.
Broussard said that Martin wants to join a contender and have a sizeable role. But on the Heat, Martin wouldn’t play his natural position with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem already at the power forward spot. The Heat would likely have to go small to get him any minutes, playing him with Bosh or Haslem. Martin is now 34 years old, coming off his worst season and expects to contribute on a team without the benefit of training camp or many practices in this shortened season. Forgive me if I’m skeptical.
Additionally, Martin and current Heat executive Alonzo Mourning had a strained relationship when the two were teammates in New Jersey. In one Nov. 2003 incident, Martin and then-teammate Richard Jefferson laughed at Mourning when the center suffering from a kidney ailment struggled to run sprints.
Perhaps the two have since buried the hatchet, and Martin may have matured since then. Perhaps Riley still remains dissatisfied with his center rotation and wants to bolster it with anyone still available. Dexter Pittman received playing time in Miami’s win over Cleveland Tuesday and Eddy Curry played in the Heat’s win over Detroit Wednesday, and neither offered much. Riley ran through this exact same situation last season, signing center Erick Dampier after Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas traded starting roles. Haslem's foot injury played a role in the signing, though.
ESPN’s Marc Stein and Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix tweeted about Miami’s interest in free agent center Joel Przybilla a month ago, and The Journal Times reported yesterday that Przybilla is leaning towards signing with Miami. Przybilla’s agent said that his client would probably not sign for a few more weeks. Przybilla is a natural center, unlike Martin, but injuries have robbed the 32-year-old of mobility and explosiveness.