Kenyon Martin, Knicks agree

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks have agreed in principle with free-agent big man Kenyon Martin on a 10-day contract, general manager Glen Grunwald announced Thursday.

Martin, 35, averaged 5.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and one block in 22.4 minutes over 42 games with the Los Angeles Clippers last season. If he's in shape, Martin could help the Knicks' interior defense and boost their rebounding.

"We've always liked Kenyon," Grunwald said. "He's a great competitor and a good defender and he's played with number of our players on the Knicks (including Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith).... We're just looking forward to adding another good defender who can help us in our quest this season."

New York, second in the Eastern Conference at 32-19, cleared the roster spot it will use for Martin earlier Thursday by trading Ronnie Brewer to Oklahoma City for a second-round pick.

Grunwald expects the deal with Martin to be completed early next week. Brewer must pass a physical before the trade with Oklahoma City is finalized, thereby opening a roster spot for Martin.

Prior to the trade deadline, New York had expressed interest in signing a veteran big man due to uncertainty surrounding the health of Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby.

Grunwald said on Thursday that he's hopeful that Wallace and Camby can return this season but called Martin "insurance" if the veteran bigs can't get back on the floor.

Wallace has been out since mid-December with a stress reaction in his left foot. Camby has been sidelined since mid-January with a plantar fascia injury in his left foot.

Both players returned to practice Tuesday, but there is no specific timetable for either player's return.

"Signing Kenyon is a bit of insurance for our bigs in case these tricky injuries continue to trouble Rasheed and Marcus," Grunwald said. "But also that I think (Martin's) a versatile defender and can play and defend three positions in the NBA. It gives us a little bit more depth and more insurance."

The Knicks have struggled to defend both the perimeter and the paint for much of the season.

In the first nine games of the season, the Knicks ranked fourth in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) and sixth in opponent field goal percentage en route to an 8-1 start. At the All-Star break, they'd fallen to 19th in defensive rating and 22nd in opponent field-goal percentage (46.3 percent).

The hope is that Martin, whom Grunwald said has been staying in shape during the season, can bolster the Knicks' interior defense off the bench. The Knicks hope to extend their agreement with Martin, a 12-year veteran, through the end of the season.

"We're hopeful that he's going to show that he's still got what it takes to be an NBA player," Grunwald said. "I'm optimistic that he's going to be able to come and play for us."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.