Minnesota Timberwolves Coach Sam Mitchell is inserting Kevin Martin into the starting lineup in hopes of jumpstarting a struggling offense.
Martin will replace former University of Kentucky star Tayshaun Prince and Andrew Wiggins will slide from shooting guard to small forward in a first five that also includes point guard Ricky Rubio, power forward Kevin Garnett and center Karl-Anthony Towns. The new-look unit will debut on Monday night at home against winless Philadelphia.
“We’ve just got to score more points,” Mitchell said after practice on Sunday. “That may help K-Mart get out of his funk a little bit and it may help our team overall.”
Over his last five games, Martin is shooting just 26 percent from the field and is 1-for-10 from three-point range. It’s a stark contrast over his previous 11 seasons in the league, when Martin carved out a reputation as one of the better scorers and shooters in the league.
“I’ve never been through a stretch like this before,” Martin said. “Sam and his staff are trying to figure out things we can do to get me going.”
Mitchell started the season with Prince at small forward in an effort to underscore the importance of defense to a roster that has a young core including Wiggins, Towns, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad, who have all played three seasons or less. That starting five was one of the stingiest in the league as the Wolves started the season with impressive road victories against Chicago, Atlanta and Miami.
But after the offense sputtered again in a loss to the Detroit Pistons at Target Center on Friday night that dropped their home record to 0-6 on the season, Mitchell felt he had to make a move. Prince and Garnett combined to go 0-for-3 from the floor with zero points in just over 35 minutes, putting more pressure on Rubio, Towns and Wiggins to carry the scoring load.
“Tayshaun has done his job. Tayshaun was never brought here to be the starter,” Mitchell said. “He’s been able to teach our guys.”
Mitchell said Prince will now likely see his minutes reduced to about 10 per game, using him only during times when the team needs a big stop. Muhammad will also have his minutes increased as the first wing player off the bench.
Martin made it clear before the season started that he still saw himself as a starter in this league. Now it’s up to him to shake off his struggles and prove it.
“I’m confident I'll get out of it and get back to the player that I was,” Martin said. “When I’m a better defender and rebounder than I am an offensive player, something’s going on.”