For the first time in their lives, twin brothers and NBA pros Caleb and Cody Martin are going to play against each other in a regular-season game. And while they're ecstatic for one another, they're both coming for bragging rights and the win this Saturday night in Charlotte.
"My brother [Caleb] is gonna be amped, but at the same time it's like, he approaches the game like he's playing me every game," Cody told BasketballNews.com over the phone.
Caleb is excited to return to Charlotte, back where his NBA career began and where he grew up.
"Getting to be back home and play where it all started will be fun," Caleb told BasketballNews.com. "To get play against all the others that were on my past team. There's always bragging rights... and getting to leave with the dub."
The Martins have been playing and practicing against one another their whole lives, even when they played on the same team. They've constantly driven each other and motivated each other.
In fact, Caleb and Cody have always been together.
Whether it be basketball, fishing, grabbing a bite to eat or working at their local Walmart in Mocksville, North Carolina as cart pushers growing up, you'd find the pair together.
From Davie County High School, to a senior year at prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, two seasons at North Carolina State and transferring to the University of Nevada — together.
They played a significant part in back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, including a 2017-18 run to the Sweet 16, the Wolf Pack's deepest run since 2004. Both made All-Mountain West Conference squads each season and were heavily decorated, with Cody winning MWC Defensive Player of the Year and Caleb winning MWC Player of the Year.
Graduation and the NBA Draft brought the reality of separation to the forefront.
Cody would hear his named called on draft night, with the Charlotte Hornets taking him with the 36th pick on June 20, 2019, while his brother didn't hear his name called. However, Caleb would later sign an Exhibit 10 with the Hornets a month after, eventually earning a converted two-way contract and ultimately upgrading to a standard multi-year deal. Both factored in heavily in the Hornets' rotation by the end of their rookie season after spending time in the G-League with the Greensboro Swarm, further cementing themselves the following year.
Cody Martin throws the lob to his twin brother Caleb Martin!— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 1, 2020
But, in the 2021 offseason, Charlotte waived Caleb.
Caleb had prepared himself heading into the summer knowing it was a possibility, but mentioned it still caught him by surprise.
"It was just very eye-opening, in terms of just putting yourself in perspective to say, 'Alright well I haven't done enough, guys don't believe that you're an NBA player.' I think a lot of that was emphasized whenever I didn't get picked up off waivers," Caleb said.
He signed a two-way deal with the Miami Heat a month-and-a-half later, focused on proving himself and showing he belonged in the league.
"The Heat gave [Caleb] an opportunity and I don't think he's looked back since... his mindset, what he brings to them and the dynamic he brings to them, and just how hard he works. That's the culture there. So, I think he's fitting right in." Cody said.
And fit right in Caleb has, securing a high-leverage spot in the rotation for a team that's tangoed with the top seed in the Eastern Conference. He's put together career-highs across the board with respect to production and efficiency; that includes a renewed focus on the defensive end, as he's boasting his highest ratings in Defensive-Estimated Plus-Minus — emphasized by crisp rotations and honed-in tenacity.
He's played a significant part in the surprising emergence of Miami's bench unit, comprised mainly of undrafted and two-way players. The fourth most-played lineup by the Heat this season per Cleaning the Glass is an all-bench group of Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Dewayne Dedmon. The group has been remarkably effective (plus-6.2 point differential), and played a key part in the Heat rallying back in the fourth quarter to take the Toronto Raptors to overtime in a recent game. (Editor's Note: It took three extra OTs to decide that contest, with the Raptors outlasting Miami 124-120.)
It's not often that a full, five-man bench lineup will play, let alone have a positive impact. Mostly coming from similar backgrounds (being undrafted) has factored into their ability to play together.
"I think a lot of that has to do with mentality man, the fact that we want each other to win so bad," Caleb said of the unit's success."