We're learning a lot about Martell, seeing him play a bunch down this stretch, like every minute of the first three quarters against the Lakers. I'm not sure exactly what kind of an answer he is, as he continues to be something of an enigmatic player, but there have definitely been some positives in my mind. He certainly deserves the love for his work last night.
Since watching the Rockets series last year, and seeing Greg get a foul per minute last year, I've thought that what the Blazers really, really need is better perimeter defense. We don't score a lot, yes, but I think that's more to do with our pace than our offensive skill (if some stat geek can comment on that, that would be great.) Watching Greg last year, I thought that sure, while he didn't have a whole lot of moves, it really didn't matter, as he could score if he got close enough to the basket. That's doubly clear this year. But last year he couldn't stay out of foul trouble, because Batum was the only decent perimter defender that we had and he failed to adjust to the speed of those attacking the rim. This also made Joel's value go up, because he helped mitigate that weakness. But watching us struggle against quick teams like Philadelphia (who outquicked us this year and last), I've been pretty concerned that we're not going to get any better until we address this. Hence, I wasn't crazy about the Turkoglu romance, and uninspired by the Miller pickup (though I do enjoy watching a creative offensive player.) I actually thought we should be going after the man I call "Chorizo", yes, he of Spanish headswiping fame, Trevor Ariza. You don't want him shooting more than 12 shots (trust me--he tanks my fantasy FG% on a regular basis), but the man is long, quick, and rugged on the perimeter, and I think the Lakers will regret losing him, if not this year, than the next.
Martell has definitely helped on that front, as seen by his work tonight. Obviously when he hits the outside shots his value goes way up. I'm a little perplexed as to why a guy who is as athletic as Martell can't drive to the basket more effectively, or at least get a couple of steps and pull up in the lane; perhaps someone who understands the game better can opine as to whether he might develop this skill. But I love that he is giving us some intensity on the perimeter. I'd actually love to see Batum and Webster on the floor at the same time, perhaps with Roy as the PG (and Batum covering the point.) I'd love to see Chauncey Billups eyes looking at how much arc he's going to need to get it over Batum. Like the way that the Rockets traded off Battier and Artest on Roy, these two could give us that option.
Howard has been a huge surprise to me, just because I haven't seen him play in years. I always liked him (he came back to get his degree at Michigan, honoring a promise that he made to his grandmother, I think.) The Blazers should be paying him extra to tutor LaMarcus on how to play the high/low game with Greg. He's such a savvy passer and smart player. But my favorite moment, I think, was listening to him on the radio after the Blazers win on the road after either San Antonio or Dallas with 7 healthy players (or something like that). He was on the verge of tears in explaining how impressed he was with the guys on the team. I can't do it justice other than to say that I was on the verge of tears myself. What a great guy!