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Certain realities exist with KU guard Remy Martin, so how can Kansas manage them?

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) inbounds a ball during the second half on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) inbounds a ball during the second half on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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.

Comments

Dirk Medema

Besides Coach Self's history of getting players to develop beyond what most of us can imagine, the thing that gives me hope for Remy is that his peer coaching seems to have helped Joe become productive. Joe becoming productive might make it a bit harder to get minutes for Remy, but just a very little bit.

7 months ago

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Edward Daub

My two answers are as follows:

1. Yes, you can use "situational substitution" to insert Remy on Offense and Harris on Defense on every change of possession. The problem is that requires a "dead ball" on each alternate possession to be able to substitute. I doubt that Bill will want to use his 4 timeouts to accomplish this goal, so that will only work near the end of a game, when there is constant fouling. This is certainly an intriguing proposition, however.

2. Yes, when Clair Bee developed the 1-3-1 zone defense, he had players like Remy in mind to play the point near mid court. By placing Remy at the top of this zone, he can run around and trap players that are too far from the goal to shoot. He will also be positioned to "basket hang" on the fast break. There is only one problem and that is Bill does not play 1-3-1, he is a 2-3 "last resort" guy.

Rock Chalk!

7 months ago

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Chad Smith

Good Points Edward, but I do think self needs to start considering practicing a zone defense before the tourney. When you really think about it, they have the personnel to run a good 2-3 or 1-3-1.

IF Remy is in the game, I go 1-3-1 and let him chase around the perimeter while the three wing players who have good length and size (wilson, agbaji, braun) hover in the middle and then mccormack at the rim.

A 2-3 I use with Harris and yesufu in the game and then you could have any mixture of other three players at the base.

7 months ago

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Bryce Landon

I agree, Chad. Remember, the last time we made it to the NCAA Finals was back in 2012, and we did so on the strength of a zone defense. To be sure, we used a triangle-and-two instead of a 1-3-1 or 2-3, but the point is that a zone can be just as effective as man-to-man, and there's no shame in using one.

7 months ago

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Rodney Crain

​It's a little late in the season to find a way to mask Remy Martin's play on defense.

Since the very first game, when he was held out of the starting line-up due to a butting of heads with Self, he has been a liability. Over and over this season he has shown he forgets, ignores, does not understand, or just down right refuses to play the defense Self calls. When he makes a mistake on defense, someone has to cover for him, rush at an open shooter, fix a botched switch. This breaks down our defense even more and we begin to lose containment the longer he is out there.

What makes you think he would play some type of zone defense any better? What has he shown us that gives anyone confidence we can hide him? That he would listen to Self? He doesn't. Why would he now? That argument is baseless.

The counter is always, but his offense, we need his offense, the way he runs the team. As Matt pointed out above we don't. At times he has bad games, streaks of bad games, back to his ASU games. Players have bad games, but we cannot afford his bad games and his defense together. We are close to the one loss and done part of our season.

The only option is to play Remy is as a sub, but only if we have a big enough lead so when the starters come back in they do not have to repair a lot of damage. If Remy gets hot maybe a few more minutes if he can outscore his mistakes on defense. He needs to be on a very short leash.

The time to blindly believe the hype about Remy is way over. Self with all his proven success in developing players cannot fix Remy or protect the team from him. There just is not enough time, nor glaring need, to have some knee jerk reaction just for one player.

A leopard cannot change their spots. Even if Self is the leopard's coach.

7 months ago

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Bryce Landon

At this point in the season, a player's best ability is their availability. Anything Remy can give us going forward is a bonus in addition to what we already have in our arsenal.

7 months ago

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Pius Waldman

It appears to me that Self plays his favorite Harris whether he is playing great or just passing the ball. Against Baylor he got zero nada nada points. Made a number of errors yet kept in the game. Remy is very capable of being an effective player. He is a point guard and playing with Harris isn't working very well.
I realize some may disagree with my comments but these are my opinions
PS: I also would like to see Yesupu get more playing time.

7 months ago

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RJ King

"Self plays his favorite Harris whether he is playing great or just passing the ball." Just passing the ball ? ? ? Harris had 7 assists vs Baylor. SEVEN. That translates into AT MINIMUM 14 KU points - probably more like 15-18 (with 3-pt makes or And-One's).

"Made a number of errors." Harris had ONE turnover in the game. ONE. Against Baylor, DeJuan did have a couple of bad match-ups height-wise. (Martin would've been at an even bigger disadvantage.)

Remy's hype as Pre-Season Big-12 POY was laughable. He was the best player on a crappy team at ASU. He shot a very decent 43% FG, 35% 3-pt. but was allowed to make up the offense as he went along - including showboating. His assist/turnover ratio was 1.5. (Anything under two is below average.) ASU was 11th in PPG defense.

Harris is shooting 44% FG, 29% 3-Pt (which fortunately he rarely takes because he's usually moving the ball). His assist/turnover ratio is 2.75 - good for #17 in the NATION.

In Non-League Martin averaged 8.1 PPG. Harris 5.5.
In conference vs every team a Top 75 NET (or WAY better), Harris is averaging 6.2PPG. Martin 3.7.

"...these are my opinions." Well, OK. You're entitled.
I'm picking my favorite based on FACTS. But I'll add that it's my OPINION that Harris has a much better understanding of what Self wants and the willingness to run it. If something happens to DeJuan, then it's nice to have Remy healthy again.

7 months ago

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Pius Waldman

OK because Self plays Harris most of the time let's hope he can be effective more than simply looking to pass to another player. I feel Remy needs to be the point guard to be effective. Playing Harris and Remy doesn't appear to work very well. TCU will be a challenge especially on their court. Whoever plays we need a victory.
Rock Chalk

7 months ago

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Creg Bohrer

Totally off topic. Baylor was just ranked 3rd this week when they barely beat us in their house and the week before were ranked 10th. We destroyed them in our house by 30+ points and only move up a couple spots. How does that make sense?

7 months ago

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Benny Armstrong

I think the jump is more likely due to how the rest of the top 10 fared both weeks. With the top 6 and 7 of the top 10 losing on Saturday, it allows for some more movement, particularly when some of those losses were to unranked or lower ranked teams. Ultimately other than bragging rights, it does nothing to change things and we're both still on the 1 line for the tourney.

7 months ago

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