Kevin Garnett earned a reputation over his career as a world-class trash talker, but according to Kenyon Martin, the Hall of Famer was all bark and no bite.
Martin, in an op-ed he wrote for Basketball News which criticized the lack of physicality and enforcers in today’s NBA, listed players from his era whom he respected that were physical and “wanted the smoke.”
These players, such as Derrick Coleman, Zach Randolph, David West, Antonio Davis, Dale Davis and Kurt Thomas, were “guard dogs.” Martin lamented in the current NBA there are too many “poodles” and named Garnett as someone who was a “poodle” from his era.
“Kevin Garnett was a porch puppy,” Martin wrote. “A miniature chihuahua in a Dobermann’s body. I told him to his face, ‘You’re a porch puppy. All you do is bark.’ He never wanted smoke from me. I told him straight up, ‘You better take you’re a—back to your huddle before I get mad.’ Dahntay Jones heard it; you can ask him.”
Martin’s critique of Garnett was a microcosm of his larger point – that the NBA has gotten too soft.
Martin, who played 15 seasons in the NBA from 2001-15, said he began to notice in the final three seasons a shift to a softer game when he thought what were hard fouls were being called Flagrant 1s.
“If I played in today’s NBA, I would probably lead the league in ejections,” Martin wrote.
“In today’s NBA, there are no enforcers,” he added. “You can’t be an enforcer these days; the league won’t allow it. You’ll just get ejected. Also, there aren’t really hard fouls anymore and nobody is fighting, so you don’t need an enforcer to run in and stand up for your guys. The NBA’s evolution made the enforcer go extinct. They simply aren’t needed.”
Martin does believe there are still some players who “want the smoke.” He said James Johnson is a “maniac and a black belt” while the Morris twins are “always looking for problems.”
Martin said his approach was always that he would not start a fight, but he would finish a problem – especially if a player was being disrespectful on the court.
“I don’t tolerate disrespect. And I’m kinda f—king crazy,” Martin said. “Here’s the beauty of it: Once everyone knew that I was down to fight and didn’t take any s—t, I didn’t have to fight anyone. The threat alone was enough…and I would warn them too.”
By no means does Martin want to see the NBA turn into wrestling, but he believes that the physicality he thrived on can still coexist with the softer style of play.
“If another Shaquille O’Neal showed up today with that same ability to dominate the block, are you telling me there’s no place for that player in today’s NBA?” he asked. “That’s really hard for me to believe. I think in the future, we’ll see the league shift back to using big men more – those bigs will just have a jump shot in their arsenal, too.”