The Charlotte Hornets selection of Cody Martin with the 36th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft turned heads, and not in a good way. Bol Bol and his seemingly limitless potential was on the board. Daniel Gafford, who would fill an immediate need, was staring the Hornets right in the face. Instead they selected a soon-to-be-24-year-old rookie who was almost universally considered an undrafted free agent target at best.
The pick was panned by experts and fans alike, and a rough Summer League from Martin did him no favors. He played well defensively, but he looked so uncomfortable and out of his element on the offensive end that there were concerns that he’d never even make it onto an NBA floor. He only played one game in the preseason, so he didn’t get a chance to improve his standing there either.
Once the regular season got underway, Martin was relegated to spot minutes and garbage time. But six games into the season, the Hornets played and defeated a decimated Golden State Warriors team. Martin only played four minutes and 28 seconds in that game, but those 268 seconds were the start of a love affair between Martin and Hornets fans.
The game between the Hornets and Warriors was never going to be good. The Hornets were 2-3 but had a -48 point differential to that point in the season. The Warriors were already without Stephen Curry, who had recently broken his hand. They also decided to hold out Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell for minor ailments, leaving a skeleton crew to take the floor that Saturday evening.
Dwayne Bacon and Eric Paschall were the top dogs in a somewhat offense-heavy first half, which says just about all that needs to be said about this game as a whole. The Hornets trailed the G League Warriors 55-50 and Hornets fans were not happy about it. Cody Martin played the final eight seconds of the half and got credit for a block with some solid help side defense. At the time, no one cared.
If fans weren’t happy about how the first half went, the third quarter certainly didn’t help. The Hornets stepped up their defense, but they only scored 18 points all quarter long. Cody Martin’s solid eight seconds in the second quarter earned him a whole 2:10 in the third quarter. He didn’t attempt a shot, but he did take a charge. We know now that was a foreshadowing of what was to come. In that moment, it was just a nice play by a rookie.
Martin played the first minute and a half of the fourth and had a nice contest, but that’s not what this is about. This is about the last minute of that game. A minute during which Cody Martin played 44 seconds. 44 seconds that laid out everything Cody Martin brings to the table and set him up for a regular spot in the Hornets rotation.
He checked in at the one minute mark with the Hornets up one. After relentlessly denying the ball to Damion Lee, he switched onto the much larger Eric Paschall, who had been giving the Hornets fits all night. Martin moved his feet and forced an extremely difficult runner by Paschall that fell off the rim and was rebounded by the Hornets. On the next Warriors possession, Martin guarded the inbound, deflected the pass, and forced a Warriors turnover.
After the turnover, Rozier went to the line with a chance to put the Hornets up three. He missed both free throws, but Cody Martin was there to save the day once again. He tracked down the offensive rebound in the fracas and was fouled by the Warriors. He too missed his second free throw and Dwayne Bacon tied up with a Warrior for a jump ball on the rebound. Who recovered the loose ball after the tip? Well it was Cody Martin of course. That’s why this piece exists. The Hornets finally hit free throws to ice the game.
In 4:28 of game time, Martin scored one point, blocked one shot, and nabbed two rebounds. It looks like nothing. The box score doesn’t show that in his limited time, Martin took a charge, forced a miss in crunch time, forced a turnover in even crunchier time, and nabbed two key loose balls in the game’s waning moments. It’s hard for a player to directly impact a win in such limited time without scoring, but Martin did just that. There’s a good chance the Hornets don’t win this game if not for Martin’s hustle at the end of the game.
Martin played 33 minutes in the Hornets next game, which was the start of his presence in the regular rotation. He’s still a work in progress on the offensive end, but he’s a menace defensively and the Hornets are significantly better with him on the court. His nonstop motor and defensive acumen have quickly flipped Hornets’ opinions of him. This early season game against the Warriors was the start of all that.