WASHINGTON -- It's no secret that injuries have plagued the Wizards again this season. John Wall's positive bill of health on Friday -- note that his timetable for return remains unknown -- and Nene's return after a bout of plantar fasciitis are the good injury news the team has received. But Wall is still out, joining Trevor Ariza (calf), Trevor Booker (knee) and A.J. Price (hand) in suits on the sideline.
Along with these injuries, Randy Wittman hasn't seen much of a use in recent games for Jan Vesely and Earl Barron. While the four injured players have been sitting and Vesely and Barron have been languishing at the end of the bench (instead of getting in-game reps in the D-League), it has created a space for Cartier Martin to be the first wing off the bench and get himself going early.
Martin had an impressive showing against the Lakers last night, finishing with 21 points on 16 shots (he made his first 5) , eight rebounds and only one turnover. It's hard to believe that Martin wasn't even the rotation just two weeks ago.
Martin's spot used to belong to any one of Jordan Crawford, Martell Webster or Chris Singleton. Now Crawford is the starting point guard, Webster is the starting small forward, and Singleton the starting power forward. Martin comes off the bench behind Bradley Beal and Webster, taking advantage of smaller and slower opponents with his 6-7/220 frame and his inside/outside game.
Watching Martin develop a rhythm this season has taken some time, but both his confidence and that of Randy Wittman have continued to grow:
"I have confidence in this guy," Wittman said after the game last night. "He will have every opportunity again to come out in Miami and do things. I think Cartier ... both offensively and defensively did well."
Wittman acknowledged that Martin had previously been "struggling a little bit shooting the ball," but Martin's strong showing against the Lakers showed him and Wittman that he was able to get out of his shooting slump.
In the last five games, Martin has averaged over 10 points on 41 percent shooting, 44 percent from 3, 100 percent from FT (he's 4-4 total), and less than one turnover in 25 minutes per game. Per MySynergySports.com, Martin has been most effective offensively the past two seasons when attempting a spot-up jumper or making a layup in transition (about 40 percent overall in both situations). Martin played 17 games with the Wizards last season after returning from a stint in China. According to Basketball-Reference.com, he notched an above average 54.8 percent True Shooting percentage (taking into account the 2s, 3s, and FTs), and this season (taking out the Bucks game where he played 23 seconds), his TS% is about the same level at 54 percent. If he's already doing these things well, I'm excited to see what happens when John Wall comes back and helps open up the offense a bit more.
Most fans didn't expect this year to turn into what it has. Another losing record, more injuries, and rampant frustration have made this a Wizards season many would like to forget. Fans, writers and I can only assume the players are sick of moral victories and would like to continue notching ACTUAL victories.
But it's exactly in seasons like these where we must all introspect about the bad and appreciate the good. Last night, Cartier Martin reminded us that he is one of the good.