Kenyon Martin excited for chance

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Kenyon Martin spent the past four months waiting for the phone to ring, hoping he'd get a chance to play basketball again.

There were days when he worried the call never would come.

"It was a daily struggle ... I went through every emotion early in the season. Mad, sad, upset, frustrated, you name it, I went through it. It just got to a point where I couldn't let that consume my daily thoughts," Martin said. "I wanted to play."

Martin now has the chance to play again. On Saturday, the New York Knicks agreed to terms with the 35-year-old veteran on a 10-day contract.

Martin spent Saturday afternoon working out at the Knicks' practice facility, running on the side with a trainer and going through some of the Knicks' offensive and defensive sets with teammates.

"It feels great just to throw a uniform on again," Martin said.

Martin played 42 games with the Los Angeles Clippers last season, helping the team earn a playoff berth in the tough Western Conference.

After the season, Martin assumed an NBA team would come calling. The Clippers showed no interest. Other teams kept tabs on him, but nothing came to fruition.

Martin thinks teams were turned off by the perception that he's a "hothead" and "not coachable."

Martin has clashed with teammates and coaches in the past. He was suspended in the middle of a playoff series by Nuggets coach George Karl after refusing to play the second half of a game.

In 2003, Martin and then-Nets teammate Alonzo Mourning nearly came to blows when Mourning questioned Martin's leadership and Martin made light of Mourning's kidney condition.

On Saturday, Martin said the idea that he's a divisive force is a "misconception."

"I'm here to change all that," Martin said. "I'm here to change people's perception about me and if it's a 10-day (contract) or if it's for the rest of the season, whatever it is, I'm here to do that."

The Knicks play the 76ers at home Sunday night and coach Mike Woodson said if the situation arises he would not hesitate to insert Martin.

"He just wants me to play hard when I'm in there, which I'm going to do," said Martin, who is in his 13th season in the league. "He doesn't have to coach me on that."

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

The team is holding out hope that Wallace and Camby can return this season, but general manager Glen Grunwald 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 earlier this week, but there is no specific timetable for either's return.

With the Knicks in the midst of a season-long four-game losing streak, Woodson is eager to get Martin on the court.

"I know that he's a hustle player," he said. "If he hustles and rebounds and does dirty work he can play for me."

Martin has spent the past several months in Los Angeles, working out and enjoying time with his children. He didn't played much basketball, but remained in shape by doing conditioning work.

When asked if he can still be the "warrior" that he was known as earlier in his career, Martin put a reporter's hand over his heart and said, "That ain't going nowhere, trust me."

Martin previously has played with Jason Kidd in New Jersey, and Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, J.R. Smith and, briefly, Raymond Felton in Denver.

He's looking forward to reuniting with his old teammates and changing the perception that he's uncoachable.

"Once people around here get to know me and know who I am, and know who I am in my heart and know what I'm about, that changes people's perception about me as a whole," he said.

As an example, Martin cited a conversation he had with an elderly female Nuggets fan at a community event in Denver several years ago. They spoke for two or three minutes, but Martin left an impression on the elderly fan.

"She whispered in my ear, 'Before now I thought you were an a------, but you are a great guy."

He added: "That's my thing. If people get to know me and know who I am and know what I'm about -- I love basketball, I love winning, I love competing. Do it come out wrong sometimes? Yeah. I'm the first to admit it.

"But I'm never going to stop caring about the game, stop caring about how my teammates playing, stop caring about how I play and stop caring about how the game's going. And if that's too much, then I don't know what to do."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.