Breakout Heat Star Caleb Martin Felt ‘Disrespected’ Vs. Celtics

'Caleb definitely made a name for himself'


May 30, 2023

BOSTON — When the Miami Heat lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season, Caleb Martin didn’t see the floor for a single minute.

But with another trip to the NBA Finals on the line Monday night at TD Garden, the Heat entrusted Martin to play an immense role and he delivered.

Martin became the perfect running mate next to Heat star Jimmy Butler, netting 26 points on a highly efficient 11-for-16 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and three assists in 45 minutes in a resounding 103-84 victory for Miami at TD Garden. Martin finished the series averaging 19.3 points per game on a blistering 60.2% shooting from the field — better numbers than Celtics second team All-NBA talent Jaylen Brown.

Boston seemed willing to give Martin open looks time and time again, feeling as though he didn’t warrant the Celtics’ full attention on the defensive end. And after being somewhat of an afterthought entering the series, Martin made his presence known and made the C’s pay on a consistent basis.

“As soon as we got done with the New York series, I instantly felt kind of disrespected just off how I got guarded last year,” Martin said. “I guess it was a sense of pride and a sense of understanding how they were going to guard me and they were going to make me earn their respect, which I totally understand. I just wanted to come in, I had to leave my mark on this series and I understand I was going to be the guy that had to prove himself in order to contribute and change their schemes. So, I just wanted to make sure I came in to contribute any way I could to make sure I was being able to move the needle to get to the finals.”

Martin’s play stood out so much that he nearly took conference finals MVP honors away from Jimmy Butler. Butler won the award by a 5-4 margin.

“Caleb definitely made a name for himself,” Heat forward Bam Adebayo said. “A lot of people don’t see the work that Caleb put in. I mean, ya’ll see it now because he’s playing out of his mind. After that Game 7 loss, I feel like he made a necessary effort to really come back and be like, ‘I’m going to be reason why we win a series or be a reason why we win big games.’ And he showed that throughout this whole series.”

It wasn’t the usual road to starring on an elevated stage for Martin. He went undrafted out of Nevada and after trying to catch on with the Charlotte Hornets, he got waived by the club in August of 2021.

At the beginning of last season, Martin was on a two-way contract with the Heat. He played his way to a regular contract but still had those shortcomings in last year’s East finals when he averaged just 7.3 points per game in the series.

But this time around, Martin continued his improbable journey by showcasing that not only can he thrive in the conference finals, but it’s exactly where he belonged.

“He’s been amazing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If you’re a real a competitor then it’s in your soul, and that’s what Caleb is. He’s a competitor. Every bit the competitor that you talk about Jimmy or Bam or whatever. Caleb is a competitor.

“You get to the higher stakes the further you get along, the more competitors are going to reveal themselves. Game 7s, or get to the Conference Finals, it’s not for everybody in this association. Otherwise more players, more teams would do it. You have to be wired a little bit differently, and Caleb is.”

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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