Some interesting comments.
Kenyon Martin reached into the bleachers and signed a dollar bill for a Montbello High School student Wednesday. A few minutes later, he vowed to give Nuggets fans their money's worth in 2006-07.
The Denver power forward stopped short of making any guarantees, but pronounced himself healthy and insisted he is ready to look ahead after a frustrating season that culminated in his suspension in the first round of the playoffs.
"I'm not making any promises on numbers, wins or how I'm going to perform," Martin said, "but I'm going to be a better player than I have been the previous two years."
Not to mention, a better teammate.
Martin was suspended after shouting and cursing at coaches and teammates during halftime of Game 2 of Denver's first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The blowup, fueled by Martin's frustration over losing and a lack of playing time, proved to be a fitting end to a season in which the former All-Star was limited to 56 games because of chronic pain in his surgically repaired left knee.
Coach George Karl and Martin met briefly during the Las Vegas summer league but otherwise let the dust settle without much interaction. No more words are necessary, according to Martin.
"I have no hard feelings or anything like that for George," he said. "He's the coach of this team; I'm the player, and I'm going to do my job."
Karl welcomed a fresh start and praised Martin for his work in the gym over the past month.
"The bounce to his step is stronger," Karl said Wednesday. "I think his work has been above and beyond what I expected. . . . Our interaction has been very professional and very serious. What happened is behind us."
While insisting he has no regrets, Martin admitted he probably should have handled the situation last spring differently.
"Some of it I brought upon myself. I'm able to deal with that," he said. "I'm a man. I can deal with the decisions I make. I made a decision, which at the time, seemed right. Things happen in the spur of the moment. Push it under the rug and move on."
Martin, entering the third year of a seven-year, $92.5 million contract, averaged 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. The pedestrian numbers were among the lowest of his career and could be attributed, in part, to a slow, painful recovery from microfracture surgery in May 2005.
Tendinitis limited Martin's ability to practice, and he and Karl had conflicting philosophies when it came to how practice time translated into game minutes.
Martin, a starter throughout his career, was relegated to a reserve role, and the move didn't sit well, leading up to his memorable halftime tirade.
"He didn't like how he was playing, he didn't like how I was playing him and he didn't like how we were playing as a team," Karl said. "When all that happens, somebody's going to be angry."
Because of Martin's unhappiness, trade speculation was rampant during the offseason. However, there was not a strong market for a moody forward with a big contract and health issues.
"If I was going to be back, I'm going to be Kenyon. If not, oh well," Martin said. "I'm not going anywhere."
As the cliché goes, sometimes the best trades are the ones that don't get made, and the Nuggets hope that proves to be the case as Martin takes aim at a strong bounce-back season.
"I feel great," he said. "I haven't felt this good in two years."
Martin tried to pass along those good feelings Wednesday during an assembly at Montbello. He was one of several speakers who encouraged students to stay out of gangs and end the violence that has claimed the lives of three Montbello students in the past two years.
"You have more to deal with than I had to deal with," Martin told the student body. "I'm here to tell you to try to make the right decision."
Martin said gangs and drug dealers were all around growing up in Dallas, but his mom helped steer him away from trouble by dropping him off at a basketball gym when he was 9 years old.
"She told me I was going to do something else besides get in trouble," Martin told the students. He later told reporters he was "very close" to making the poor decisions that doomed many of his friends.
"You see kids in your neighborhood, they've got (Air) Jordans and nice clothes and you can't afford that," Martin said. "They're getting it because they're selling drugs . . . so it's very tempting. But I wasn't willing to go to jail over no Jordans. I buy all the Jordans I want to now."
A short time later, Martin climbed into his sleek, black Mercedes and drove slowly away from a group of awestruck students.