Cartier Martin Misses Playoffs, Gains Experience
On the previous possession, the NBA D-League call-up missed an open 3-pointer that would have solidified a Wizards win in the last game of the season. Moments later, with a one-point lead, he was checking the Pacers' go-to scorer with three seconds left on the clock.
Granger came off a screen with Martin in tow but misfired on a 15-foot jump shot. Wizards players jumped around, throwing T-shirts into the crowd celebrating the 98-97 win. Martin breathed a sigh of relief.
"If there was another game after this, I could have gotten over it," Martin told FanHouse. "But now it's the summer. You think about things like that."
The game meant little for the Wizards, long removed from the playoff picture after a well-documented tumultuous season. For Martin, it meant plenty.
His 11 points and five rebounds were nice, but his nearly 32 minutes of playing time -- the most in two stints with the Wizards this season -- were sweeter.
Even when he wasn't playing, the experience at the pro level has been valuable. Martin said he's learned the most by watching the veterans ("Mr. Mike Miller and, of course, coach Sam Cassell," he said).
Coach Flip Saunders recognized that, giving Martin an extended look in this game along with fellow D-League call-up Cedric Jackson, who hit the eventual game-winning three pointer with 1:31 remaining.
"You cannot substitute playing in the NBA," Saunders said. "I coached in the CBA -- in the minors -- for seven years. There's no substitute for playing in the NBA."
That's why Martin has remained happy while playing for this losing outfit (although the Wizards are 3-3 since he arrived on April 2) as his former team -- the NBA D-League's Iowa Energy – prepare for the conference finals in the D-League playoffs.
After a call-up last season with the Charlotte Bobcats, Martin said he has a greater appreciation for what it means to be in the NBA -- and what it takes to stick there.
He still trades text messages with his former teammates and has been watching their run in the postseason.
Rules prohibit Martin from returning to the Energy for the playoffs since the Wizards' season is now officially over. It's too bad -- a reunion with the Energy would have been beneficial for both parties.
"it's definitely a missed opportunity cause I would like to play with those guys, but you know this is a great opportunity for me," Martin said. "Unfortunately, I can't go back down and play with those guys after the season ends, but if I could, I would."
Mike Harris has lifted Rio Grand Valley since returning on assignment from Houston. Martin thinks he could do the same for Iowa.
"Yeah, we would definitely bring home the 'ship if I could play," he said, smiling.
There are no championships to be won in Washington, but Martin's eye is on a different goal. And while he missed that shot in the final seconds, he's impressed Saunders in his time with the club.
"The thing I like when I look at players that come out of those leagues, you like players that aren't afraid to take those shots," Saunders said. "Many times players in those leagues, why they're there, they may not have that aggressiveness to finish plays, and they might defer too much to players up here.
"He doesn't look to defer."
Martin stood at his locker after the game, with the same look of relief on his face. He smiled, talking about the last two possessions, glad Granger's shot didn't fall.
But even if it had, it would have fell through the net at an NBA arena. That's still something to smile about.