Hornets’ rookie Cody Martin has far surpassed the expectations with which he entered his rookie year. His contagious energy and tenacious defense are just two areas where he has been a major contributor to this Charlotte Hornets team. He has already earned the trust of his head coach, playing in crucial situations down the stretch of important games, shining a light on the maturity and force he is already inserting into NBA games.  

I, along with a few other Hornets media members (Rick Bonnell), got a chance to catch up with Cody Martin last week following the Hornets’ 110-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on December 17th. We discussed his rookie season, including his time in Greensboro where Martin gained newfound confidence, how the energy he plays with is in his DNA, and much more. I also discussed Cody Martin with Hornets’ head coach James Borrego and Hornets’ standout guard Devonte’ Graham. 

Cody Martin

How did your five-game stint in the G-League benefit you?

“The biggest thing for me when I went to the G-League was just going there and playing with confidence. I would say more so just working on my skillset. Just going in there, being confident and looking for my shot more. Building the confidence to shoot those shots that I’ll get here. Whether that’s corner threes and sometimes coming off the pick-and-roll. Just getting reps in, I think that’s the biggest thing ultimately. Just getting reps in and feeling comfortable.” 

(In five games played with the Greensboro Swarm, Cody Martin played 35 minutes per game, averaging 18.4 PTS, 8.2 REB, 4.6 AST, 2 STL. He shot 58.7 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point land on five attempts per game.)

 

Coach [James] Borrego talked a few weeks back about watching film with you prior to your assignment to the Swarm. He said you two specifically went over step-back threes and shooting off the pick-and-roll. JB explained that he was looking for you to translate those skills down with the Swarm. Were you specifically looking for those shots? You shot 40 percent from three with the Swarm and made a lot of those said shots.

“To be honest with you, I was just taking what the defense was giving to me. I knew when I was going down there that people were having the scouting report and they were going to base it off how I was doing up here at first. I wasn’t shooting the ball very well, so I knew they were going to go under screens. So just taking what the defense was giving me. That was an opportunity to work on what I needed to work on. I got to come off ball screens a little bit more, making decisions in the pick-and-roll and making those kinds of reads. It’s helped a lot, especially to do that and then translate that to my game up here.”

 

JB said that you have become the guy, in his mind, that he can always rely on for energy. In so many words he said you raise the temperature in the room by the passion in which you play. 

“I feel like I’ve always been that. I always try to play hard. I’ve said that for a long time. I will always play hard and get things happening. You can’t really control whether or not your shot is going in every game – that’s just how basketball is. The only thing you can really do is give 100 percent effort and energy, especially on the defensive end. I think that our team is improving every game, especially with our communication, learning our rotations, and the small details.”



When Steve Clifford coached here, he said we in the NBA need to start viewing playing exceptionally hard as an NBA skill. Let’s not act like that is not just as measurable as whether somebody can make a three or someone can create off the dribble. Do you feel like that’s the thing that’s distinctive about you?

“I think so, and that’s why I think I continue to get better every single game. Honestly playing hard nowadays is a skillset. A lot of the times nowadays people are just trying to be cool out there while they’re on the court. Everyone’s good. Everyone can shoot, dribble, pass. Now it’s just about finding something that separates you from everyone else. Playing hard is that. I’m going to continue to do that. To be honest, that’s just in my DNA, to just play hard every single game. Like I said, some games you’re going to play well and some games you aren’t. It’s just about improving every time I get on the court.”



JB said he’s seeing a different vibe from you. Whether that’s shooting, passing, or decision making, you look more comfortable and assertive. Does it feel different? There was a span for a while when you were playing out of the blue, not consistently, and then they sent you to Greensboro. Does it feel more comfortable?

“Comfortable is the word. Comfortable and confident. When I first was playing, I was second-guessing a lot of my plays, whether it was shooting the ball or making plays I usually always make. A lot of that has to do with playing with each other, and that’s going to come along with more minutes and more playing time. The biggest thing was me second-guessing myself at the beginning. Right now it’s about me trusting in myself and my teammates trusting in me and me trusting in them. 

 

James Borrego

How much confidence do you have in Cody Martin at this point? 

“We’ve had confidence in him for a while now. We’ve played him at the end of games. My confidence in him continues to grow. I trust him out there defensively especially. The biggest thing is I know when I put him into the game that he’s going to give maximum effort every possession. That’s not going to waiver. To me, that’s where the confidence lies for me. I know he’s going to give 100 percent every night, every minute he’s on the floor…

“His decision making is getting better. He made a big shot tonight. There’s more confidence there. A lot of passes. Those quick decisions. He attacks the rim, he attacks closeouts. I think he’s growing. I trust him in the rotation right now. He’s gotta continue to grow. I want him to keep shooting the ball. He understands his role on this team. I think more importantly, his teammates trust him.”



How much stock would you put in the strides Cody Martin has made recently to the time he spent in Greensboro?

“He’s come back more confident on the offensive end. You tend to see that when players go to the G-League, they’re getting more touches and they’re having to make more decisions there. Most times when they come back to us, they’re more confident on the offensive end. It’s just a matter of getting more touches, more feel, more practice, having to make more decisions and get more comfortable. Once they get back to us, they are much more confident. I’m seeing the same story out of this kid. His confidence is growing, especially when the ball’s in his hands, he’s making the right decisions, in attack mode. He’s much more decisive I think than when he left for Greensboro. He’s trending the right way. 

 

Devonte’ Graham

What progression have you seen in Cody Martin this season, and how do you evaluate his overall play to this point?

“He’s just aggressive. He’s always played like that. He comes down and attacks the rim, and defensively he can guard anybody. He’s definitely been tremendous for us these past couple of games.”

 

Is aggressive the right word to describe Cody Martin?

“I think so. He comes out with that mindset on both ends with tremendous energy.”

 

JB has said he can always count on Cody [Martin] playing hard any time he puts him in the game. A team needs a guy like that who you can always put in to change the temperature of the game. Do you agree with that?

“That’s what he does. He comes in, if we’re down, up, either way. He might get a couple of defensive stops, a good contest at the rim, and then he gets downhill and can create plays for others. Coach said he [Cody Martin] played a hell of a game when he talked to us after the game.”