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Kenyon Martin Sr. wants ‘winning situation’ for his son, KJ Martin

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Uber-athletic forward KJ Martin still has two seasons left on his initial NBA contract with the Houston Rockets. But his father — former All-Star forward Kenyon Martin — is already thinking beyond that.

In the younger Martin’s first two NBA seasons, the Rockets have gone into a rebuilding movement while finishing with the league’s worst record in both years. The 21-year-old forward has been one of the clear bright spots, though, averaging 9.0 points (52.4% FG, 36.0% on 3-pointers) and 3.8 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per game over those two seasons.

“Houston is great, for what it’s been,” the elder Martin said of his son in a new interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio. “Getting acclimated, getting his feet in the door, learning the NBA game, and earning his minutes. Nothing has been given to him, he’s earned every minute that he’s had.”

However, while making clear that he wasn’t speaking for his son, Martin went on to say that he personally wants his son to have a “better situation,” as far as winning basketball games. Among his comments:

I just want a better situation for him, as far as winning. Houston is Houston. The way it’s looking now… that’s not going to be the case (winning) next year. They’re going to have another lottery pick, and be even younger. They’ve still got four 19-year-olds, and a couple of guys who will be 20 next year, so it’s still the same situation. For him to be with a bunch of young guys, and being able to play and compete, and get experience… you can’t ask for nothing more.

But, as far as winning, and the way the organization is going about certain things… I’d love for him to be in a different situation, in that regard. But if Houston changes, that’s what it is. I’m looking out for his best interest, long-term, and off-the-court stuff.

Because it has to be tough on him. He’s not just going to come out tell me, one day, ‘Man, I need to get out of there, I’m tired of losing.’ He’s not going to say that because he’s a competitor, and he signed up to be with those guys.

But for him, I just want him to be in a better situation for winning, and continue to get better. Which he is, and he’s going to do. The sky is the limit for him.

The good news is that Martin isn’t likely to become a free agent until the 2024 offseason, and by that point, Houston is likely to be fully committed to winning. The Rockets are positioned to have significant salary cap room in 2023, and since 2023-24 is the year that Houston’s future draft-pick obligations to Oklahoma City will kick back in, the Rockets will be heavily incentivized to pursue an organizational shift. Houston’s top young prospects, such as 2021-22 rookies Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, will be much closer to their prime years, too.

Thus, the current dynamic is highly unlikely to be the case when Martin can actually become a free agent and potentially consider leaving the team. However, the words of his NBA-ex father do offer a cautionary tale regarding the psychological impact of losing seasons.

“When you look at teams like Milwaukee, Brooklyn, San Antonio, Miami, Phoenix, even New Orleans… how they approach the game and play, I would love for him to be in a situation where people approach every situation like that, and help their young guys get better,” Martin Sr. said.

“We’ll see what’s next, but as of right now, he’s in Houston for next year. It’s non-guaranteed, but whatever the deal is, he earns it. He puts the time in, works at his craft, and he cares about the end result — which is winning and losing, and getting better. He has a bright future.”

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