Though there is no long-term guarantee, making the jump from D-League to the NBA is a cozy one. Following that initial practice, Martin and his teammates hopped a flight to Indianapolis, where his first game was one night away. Martin didn’t have a change of clothes but the Wizards gave him an extra sweat suit.
In addition to going from the Fairfield Inn to five-star hotels, Martin’s per diem jumped from $30 a day on the road to more than $100. The maximum salary in the D-League is $25,000 for an entire season; Martin was scheduled to earn more than $50,000 for 10 days in the NBA.
“It’s not about the salary, though,” he said. “It’s about the dream.”
Still, the money is always a consideration, especially now.
The trouble with money
Martin appeared in 52 games for the Wizards last season before a stress fracture in his left foot prompted Washington to release him. The team paid for his surgery, but he wasn’t able to play basketball throughout the summer.
Back home in Houston, Martin’s grandmother, 86-year-old Earlier Mae Martin, had passed away, and Martin was making the 115-mile drive to Crockett for the funeral. It was a tough day for everyone in the family.
On the drive, Martin made a phone call to transfer some money — to help control spending, he had only a small amount accessible at any given time — and ran into an problem. He’d turned most of his money over to be managed by Dave Salinas, a friend and mentor. Salinas, a successful Houston area financial adviser, guided Martin through AAU ball, had been a constant confidant and even bought Martin his first car. “A father figure,” Martin calls him.
Martin didn’t know what was wrong with his account and didn’t have time to figure it out. He attended the funeral and when he turned on his phone later, he was inundated with text messages: Have you heard the news?
Salinas had shot and killed himself. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had unearthed a Ponzi scheme in which Salinas reportedly told his clients he was putting their money in corporate bonds. In all, Salinas may have defrauded more than 100 investors of more than $50 million, according to court records, and people like Martin, Texas Tech Coach Billy Gillispie and Gonzaga Coach Mark Few lost their entire investments.
“I had just seen him two weeks before that. He took me to lunch and he was telling me how proud he was of me for being able to save my money,” Martin said. “It just really hurt. He played me. I felt betrayed by the whole thing.”
Martin said he lost “hundreds of thousands.” While he’s working with attorneys to recoup some of that money from Salinas’s estate, he was instantly put in a bind last summer. Martin said he had only $1,000 in his account and with the NBA lockout jeopardizing the 2011-12 season, he didn’t know when he’d receive another paycheck.