No one seemed to notice Cartier Martin. He made the short walk down the sidewalk from his hotel to the arena one morning last week wearing a sweat suit, sneakers and a backpack. Though he stands 6 feet 7 and makes a living playing professional basketball, heads didn’t spin and eyes didn’t pop.
Such is life on the margins of the NBA. For every megastar earning tens of millions, there are several more players like Martin who can always hear the clock ticking. As he crossed Seventh Street NW and made his way to Verizon Center, Martin knew he only had 10 days to prove himself.
Martin, 27, is a member of the Washington Wizards — at least temporarily. After starting the season in China and continuing it in Des Moines, he was finally signed by Washington to a 10-day contract on March 28. Perform well and he might receive an extension. Play poorly and he’d again be looking for work.
It’s a routine with which Martin is familiar. This marked his fifth career 10-day contract. He’s played in the NBA’s Development League, and overseas in Turkey, Italy and China. It’s an uncomfortable, nomadic life. Last summer, he visited a Texas tattoo parlor and had some more work done on his left arm, adding the words “Beware of the grind” to his ink collage.