At last, Clarence Martin can push back. In the Jazz rookie-free agent camp, in fact, he can push and shove almost all he wants.
That was not the case in Japan, where the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Martin played last season. "They can push you," he said, "because you're bigger and an American."Having graduated from Western Kentucky in 1986 and played the following season as a graduate student, Martin was already in Japan when the Jazz drafted him in the third round last summer. He chose to stay in Osaka for the winter season, figuring he'd have no options left if he came to the Jazz camp in October - held later, because of the NBA moratorium - and was cut.
"If I'd come here and things didn't work out, I'd have taken myself out of a job," explained Martin. "A smart man wouldn't do that."
Playing in Japan really means having a job and working from 8 to 12 every morning in the office of a major electronic company, the team's sponsor. When he finishes playing for the team, Martin can continue working for the company anywhere in the world he chooses.
He'd settle for being employed by the Utah Jazz, but he also wouldn't mind returning to Japan. "It's an adjustment," he says of life in the Orient. "At times, it's lonely and stressful, but playing is fun."
With two Americans on each team and only one allowed on the floor at a time, Martin usually guarded the other American, a forward or center. As for the Japanese players, he says, "Everybody's not short. But they're really robotic, because they haven't played a lot of street ball where you wheel and deal. If you give them instructions, they'll do it exactly that way."
Having joined the team last February, forward Scott Roth is playing in his first Jazz camp. But having gone to previous camps with San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers, he's hardly feeling like a rrokie.
"Ive worked so hard to get in the NBA and I'm comfortable now that I have my foot in the door and the Jazz know what I can do," Roth said. "It's a much more relaxing situation. A camp situation is very difficult - I look at the guys and I see myself two or three years ago."
Roth's future with the Jazz may hinge on whether they sign Jose Ortiz, but the team paid his way to play in the Summer Pro League in Los angeles this month. "That was a sign they were really interested in me, to make that investmen," said Roth.
Roth averaged about 15 points a game on a revolving-door team that included, at various times, Karl Malone, Charles Oakley, Ron Harper, Spud Webb and Cliff Levingston. When one of the big names would show up, they'd play big minutes. "Hopefully, I'll be in that position sometimes," smiled Roth.