Certain realities exist with KU guard Remy Martin, so how can Kansas manage them?
The reality of Remy Martin’s return to the Kansas lineup on Saturday night was that it went about as well as anyone could’ve hoped on one end of the floor and served as a reminder of his shortcomings on the other.
In 11 minutes off the bench for the fifth-ranked Jayhawks, Martin scored five points on 2-of-3 shooting and looked quick, strong and athletic. No problems there.
His issues on offense, limited as they were, had to do with rust and lack of chemistry that came from missing nearly an entire month of action with a team you’ve played with for less than a year. But that was to be expected.
What was not known was whether the time off he got this month was enough to allow him to return to being his electric, play-making self when he returned to the floor. It appeared it was. Provided he’s able to remain at that level — i.e. no setbacks or further flare-ups — that should be viewed as good news for Kansas fans.
“It’s not my knee, so I couldn’t tell you how he feels,” said KU junior Christian Braun after the Jayhawks 80-70 loss at Baylor on Saturday night. “But he looked good. He looked fast, hit a big shot, hit another one in the lane that was big. So, he looked fine. He’s great.”
On defense, Martin showcased the mental lapses and positioning issues that plagued him during his first few months with the Jayhawks. They also led to a few Baylor buckets and made it hard for Kansas coach Bill Self to play him more than the 11 minutes he got.
Even if Martin had been perfect on both ends, it’s likely that his first action would have been limited to 10-15 minutes anyway.
For one, it’s hard to know exactly where his conditioning is at these days, and relying on him for any longer than that could be setting him up to fail. At least early on in his return.
For two, in order to play Martin much more than that, someone from the starting five would have to take a hit to his minutes. And while it might be easy for some to say David McCormack can be that guy, the fact that Martin and McCormack play such different positions and bring such different things to the lineup makes it hard for that to be a viable option.
Kansas needs McCormack out there. The question now is do the Jayhawks need Remy?
Want? Yes. Like the idea of what he can bring? Yes. Feel good about how he has supported this team while injured? Absolutely.
But do they need him?
Their record without him this season (9-1) shows they may not. But key Kansas leaders continue to talk him up and paint a picture of Martin still helping this team a great deal before it’s all said and done.
“When Remy’s Remy, that’s when we’ll be (our) best,” Braun said Saturday. “We know it’s going to take him (some time) to get back in the swing of things. He actually did a decent job today. If we let Remy be Remy, he’ll be fine.”
Added KU senior Ochai Agbaji of Martin’s first action since Jan. 29: “Remy was great. To get thrown out there in an environment (like that) after he missed a lot of games is really impressive.”
Kansas coach Bill Self also said after Saturday’s loss that he was glad Martin was able to get back out there and “did fine” but that he needs to see Martin rediscover some rhythm and consistency that can help this team.
Saturday’s return was just one game. So it’s not all that fair to base the rest of Martin’s season on his first 11 minutes of playing time in a month.
But when you combine what we saw in those 11 minutes with what we already knew to be true from the 17 games Martin already had played with the Jayhawks earlier this season, you reach a conclusion that probably does not surprise anyone. Martin can help this team on offense, but his defensive issues make him tough to play on that end.
That got me thinking. Is there a way to have Martin out there for his offensive firepower without risking too much on the defensive end?
Could KU invent or create some kind of Remy-specific zone defense that would allow the Jayhawks to essentially hide him on D while giving them the opportunity to take full advantage of what he can do offensively?
Box and 1? Four around Remy? Whatever you want to call it, letting Martin run around like a wild man, chasing the ball or the best scorer and unleashing his boundless energy on the defensive end seems like the best way to use him.
Technically, Kansas can do something like that. But anyone reading this knows how likely it is for Self to want to do that. With any player.
Beyond that, if given enough time, opposing coaches surely would be able to find ways to attack Martin in whatever zone Kansas came up with, be it with ball movement, special sets or by attacking his area relentlessly.
Regardless of how likely it is to occur or how effective it may or may not be, I’d still like to see it.
Right now, that strategy seems like the only way for Kansas to reap the benefits of “Remy being Remy” without too much risk.
That could change in a matter of days, though. For better or worse. After all, this is the Remy Martin experience we’re talking about, and, like it or not, good or bad, you just never really know what you’re going to get.