Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Martin's defense as valuable as offense

Nets forward has tangled up Detroit's game

Enquirer news services

Nets forward Kenyon Martin (6) shoots over the defense of Detroit Pistons guard Clifford Robinson (30) during the first quarter Sunday.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Kenyon Martin scored a team-high 16 points to help the Nets take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, but he brought so much more than an offensive presence.

At various parts of the game he guarded Cliff Robinson, Mehmet Okur and even guard Chauncey Billups. He also helped make sure Tayshaun Prince didn't hurt New Jersey the way he hurt Philadelphia.

"I think they were too soft on him in the last series," the UC product said Sunday after the Nets beat the Pistons, 76-74. "I just try to keep a body on him, muscle him a little bit, push him out and don't let him get to his sweet spot. Make it tough on him.

"I just play everybody the same - make it tough on them, as tough as possible. They told me before the series started I'm going to have to guard different guys, so I just have to be prepared for it. If they didn't have the confidence in me to tell me that, they wouldn't do it. But everybody has confidence I can do that."

Martin, a 25-year-old power forward who was born in Saginaw, shot 8-for-14 and also had two assists, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocks.

When the Pistons squeezed out their first lead since the start of the game early in the third quarter, Martin answered with a jumper. When the Pistons surged ahead by five a few minutes later, he came up with a little hook shot. He blocked Prince's jumper halfway through the fourth quarter and then converted a fast break into a dunk that gave the Nets a six-point lead.

"I'm working to be a superstar in this league," he said. "I have the potential to. I'm just getting my mind focused on the things I need to do to make myself better and help my team win."

Martin and the Nets will take on the Pistons in Game 2 today at 8 p.m.

PACERS: Guard Reggie Miller underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle Monday.

The surgery, performed by the Pacers' team doctor Sandy Kunkel, cleaned out loose cartilage and bone spurs from the ankle. Miller, 37, will begin rehabilitation immediately and is expected to make a full recovery.

CAVALIERS: Cleveland owner Gordon Gund will meet with former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy this week about Cleveland's coaching vacancy, a source said.

Van Gundy, who took New York to the playoffs six times, has had several phone conversations with Gund, but has yet to sit down with the owner, a league source said Monday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Van Gundy and former New Orleans coach Paul Silas are the leading candidates for the job.

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