“It’s been very difficult,” his wife said. “This is the first year where we haven’t been together the entire year. It feels like I’m a single parent at times.”
In China, Martin quickly learned to text and Skype with his iPad. Still, he felt far from home, far from his family and far from his dream.
Back in the flow
Months later, because of his tenure in Washington the previous season, Martin didn’t need much time to pick up the Wizards’ system. “Once you get out there, you’re playing off instincts most of the time,” he said.
He logged 20 minutes in his first game against the Pacers, scoring 10 points and pulling down five rebounds. The team traveled back to Washington immediately following the game and had a date with the Philadelphia 76ers the next night. It was the third day on Martin’s contract and he knew he couldn’t afford to waste any of them.
“You feel like you have so much pressure on you,” he said. “It’s like, you can’t make any mistakes but at the same time, you have to remain poised.”
Against the 76ers, Martin scored a team-high 20 points and pulled down six rebounds, and the Wizards snapped a five-game losing streak. After the game, Washington owner Ted Leonsis had a hug for him, and Martin faced a crowd of media members afterward.
“Everybody has good games and everybody has bad games,” Martin said. “You could go from 20 points one night to zero the next.”
The Wizards flew to Toronto the next day for a Sunday game against the Raptors. Sure enough, Martin failed to score, missing on his only shot attempt.
Back in Washington the next day, Martin finally had time to visit a store and pick up some clothes. That night he played 23 minutes and scored seven points in a loss to the Bucks. All he could think about were his five missed shots, though.
With only four days and three games remaining, he hadn’t yet earned a contract extension. “The league is about being consistent” he said. “Everyone's capable of scoring. But it’s all about doing your job consistently.”
He returned to the hotel and couldn’t sleep. He flipped through the television channels and cruised around Facebook. He didn’t fall asleep until 4 a.m.
An uphill battle
The alarm clock buzzed at 9:45 a.m. on the seventh day, and Martin quickly reported to work: a morning of weights, a visit with trainers and a masseuse, and then some time on the practice court.
Over lunch afterward, he picked at a hamburger and tried to explain his precarious position. “Of course, I worry about what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m confident, though, in my game that I’ll be able to stay. You can’t think about it too much. There’s only so much you can control.”
Martin knows each night he’s not only playing for Wizards’ talent evaluators. There are 29 other NBA franchises that will be reviewing tape. For Martin, each of the 10 days serves as an audition to the entire league.