The Professor And The Blue-Light Special

Mar 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Kevin Martin (23) drives to the basket while guarded by Chicago Bulls shooting guard Justin Holiday (7) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Kevin Martin (23) drives to the basket while guarded by Chicago Bulls shooting guard Justin Holiday (7) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Andre Miller and Kevin Martin are proving their worth to the San Antonio Spurs.

Kevin Martin was subbed into the San Antonio Spurs‘ March 12 home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’d only been in the game for two minutes before he drew a foul and proceeded to hit both shots from the free-throw line. Spurs team captain Tim Duncan and point guard Tony Parker couldn’t help but laugh.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Parker told Michael C. Wright of ESPN. “The first time he got the ball, we were laughing. Timmy [Duncan] was like, ‘Oh my God. Unbelievable.’ He’s got a gift for that, man … drawing fouls. I’m just happy he’s on our team now.”

This wasn’t the first time that Martin worked his foul-drawing mojo for his new team. In his Spurs debut against the Chicago Bulls on Mar. 10, Martin once again went to the foul line on his first possession after drawing a foul from the Bulls’ Justin Holiday.

Related Story: 25 Best Players to Play for the San Antonio Spurs

If this were a Game of Thrones (or Bleacher Report’s Game of Zones, which is a forest’s worth of hilarious and delicious shade) episode, Martin would be called “K-Mart The Foul Sorcerer.” Or maybe “The Foul Whisperer.”

Martin got his first start of the season as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich ramped up his resting program, sitting Boris Diaw, Danny Green, and Patty Mills against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies on March 25. Kawhi Leonard was out as well, due to a thigh bruise incurred during the home game against the Miami Heat.

Martin replaced Green in the starting lineup, joining Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, fellow newcomer (and fellow former Minnesota Timberwolves teammate) Andre Miller, and Kyle Anderson.

Martin came to San Antonio on the heels of a buyout from the Timberwolves, where he was underutilized and suffered from subsequent drops in his stats across the board.  A proficient three-point shooter and playmaker, the 13-year veteran was in the mix to join other teams after his buyout, but felt that the Spurs were the best fit for him.

“I appreciate the other teams for inviting me into their organizations,” Martin told Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports in a text message. “But at the end of the day this just felt right!”

The feeling was the same for Miller, affectionately known as “The Professor” for his basketball acumen. Miller preceded Martin from the T-Wolves via his own buyout, but had already set his sights on the Spurs before the deal was done. Like his new teammate David West, money wasn’t an issue at this stage of his career.

More from San Antonio Spurs

The Holy Grail, an NBA championship, would be the the final goal for the 17-year veteran, the one thing every professional player craves.

Given that the Timberpups are in a rebuilding mode due to both their youthful roster and the untimely death of head coach Flip Saunders, it made little sense for either Miller or Martin to stay around.

Kevin Garnett waived his no-trade clause to return to his first professional NBA team and provide veteran guidance–in tandem with Tayshaun Prince–to the young team’s building blocks in Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns.

That left very little for Miller and Martin to do but be paid to ride the pine, which wasn’t what they signed up to do.

Miller, the oldest active player in the NBA by a month and some change (the league’s second-oldest active player is Duncan), gives the Spurs a much-needed depth boost and a more reliable backup for Parker and Mills.  Oh, and to help make plays like this:

It’s no secret that Popovich wanted to avoid anything resembling the clutch-time letdown that was Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers in last year’s playoffs, and which saw San Antonio making an early exit (but it did yield this glorious block by Duncan, who held off DeAndre Jordan AND Blake Griffin. At the same time. At 39 years old.)

In that game, as well as for a significant portion of the season, Duncan carried the team more than he should have (let’s keep it 100: yes, he’s the team captain, but he’s also the aging team captain).

Adding Miller and Martin to boost this year’s roster that already boasts a exponentially improved Leonard and coveted free agent Aldridge, ensures that Duncan will not have to shoulder more than his fair share come playoff time. Nor should he have to, since Leonard has emerged as one of the best, if not the best, two-way players in the NBA right now:

Plus, Aldridge is finally playing like the offensive force he was with the Portland Trail Blazers.

This was evident in the Spurs’ most recent game against the Thunder. Despite the 111-92 blowout loss, Miller and Martin both provided both scoring opportunities (Miller had 11 points) and spacing against a red-hot (as usual) Russell Westbrook and effective Enes Kanter and Andre Robinson, who were seeking revenge for their 93-95 loss a mere two weeks earlier in the Alamo City.

While some scoffed at the already elderly (by NBA standards) Spurs getting older with the additions of Miller (and, to a degree, West and Martin), their contributions have already started paying dividends.

More from Hoops Habit

The two helped lead a resting Spurs team to a 110-104 home victory over the visiting Grizzlies, and provided respite for the aging Big Three (which includes guard Manu Ginobili) for both Saturday’s Thunder game (West dropped 17 points) and the upcoming rematch against the Grizzlies in Memphis on March 28.

The veteran savvy of the aforementioned are going to be even more needed as the Spurs are giving second-year player Kyle Anderson, rookies Jonathon Simmons and Boban Marjanovic, and newcomers Miller and Martin more playing time.

Martin’s three-point prowess will be relied upon as both Danny Green and Patty Mills continue their streaky three-point-shooting. West’s defensive savvy will be a boon as face of the franchise Kawhi Leonard sits with a bruised thigh (incurred against the Spurs’ win over the Miami Heat), though he is questionable for the Monday game against the Grizz.

As the playoffs begin, the Spurs have strengthened their already formidable run at a sixth ring with their veteran additions, and have managed to lock up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Mathematically, there is a still a (very long) shot of wresting the No. 1 seed from the Golden State Warriors, but the reality is that it probably won’t happen in the final 10 games of the season unless the Warriors have a complete and utter meltdown and breakdown as they chase their 73 wins.

More hoops habit: The NBA's 50 Greatest Duos Of All-Time

Attention, K-Mart shoppers: he and The Professor are in.