Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin is taking offense to fans feeling that he can’t match the production of departed power forward P.J. Tucker.
Martin spoke to the Miami Herald about the concerns regarding his ability during the team’s training camp and indicated that he feels insulted by such assessments.
“To me, it’s kind of a sign of disrespect a little bit that people are so worried about it,” Martin said.
There’s no guarantee that Martin, who signed a multiyear deal during the offseason, will start at power forward. However, he says he has enough experience to dismiss any concerns.
“People act as if I wasn’t guarding fours last year,” Martin said. “The thing is the way we guard them is, ‘OK, cool. This guy is going to be bigger than me. He’s going to post-up. I’m going to make sure he doesn’t catch the ball. I’m going to front the post and I know I have somebody behind me.’
“Nobody is just throwing me around and I’ll be able to still compete on the glass with those guys. I’m going to do my job to the best of my ability. The way we play defense, it’s not one-on-one.”
Last season, Martin usually served in the role of Tucker’s backup. Playing close to a quarter of his minutes at the power forward position, Martin did his share of banging bodies, and the Heat managed to reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Martin’s relative lack of size appears to be the main sticking point with his critics. Listed at just 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Martin could struggle against more powerful players.
Having turned 27 just days ago (Sept. 28), Martin is young enough to bounce back from the physical play that he would see on a regular basis. Martin indicated that he’s added approximately eight pounds to his listed weight in anticipation of the battles he’ll be facing.
Last season, Martin averaged 22.9 minutes per game and started in 12 of his 60 regular season games. That reserve role led to modest statistical averages of 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Tucker, who left the Heat to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers during the offseason, averaged 27.9 minutes per game during the regular season. During that time on the court, he averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
The Heat could have conceivably chosen to pursue a more experienced power forward, but chose instead to focus on what they already have available.
At present, none of the contenders battling Martin for the job have a great deal of experience. Depending on the approach of Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, the use of a smaller lineup could also mean that Max Strus sees more action at power forward.
Just weeks remain before the Heat start the 2022-23 regular season, with the final decision on the power forward slot surely coming at that point. Yet, it’s likely that the chip on Martin’s shoulder will stay with him throughout the campaign.