By CHRIS SHERIDAN
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Kenyon Martin taped the back page of a newspaper with the headline "Whiny Tim" to his practice jersey Thursday before his New Jersey Nets' Game 3 against the New York Knicks.
Martin also mocked and challenged Knicks forward Tim Thomas, who criticized his own teammates and called Martin a phony tough guy a day earlier.
"He knows I'm going to be there at 7 o'clock tonight," Martin said. "He knows where to find me. ... Lock me and him in a room together and see who comes out."
A league spokesman said NBA vice president Stu Jackson was monitoring the developments, which have provided the most intrigue in a one-sided series. New Jersey won the first two games by an average of 21 points.
To the amusement of teammates and the Nets' staff, Martin walked out of the trainer's room at the team's practice facility wearing the back page of the Daily News of New York across the front of his jersey. He then proceeded to insult Thomas for several minutes.
"If you take a poll around the league and asked people who they want on their team, they're not going to say Tim Thomas. Teammates never questioned how hard I played," Martin said. "They know what they're going to get out of me when I step on the court. I'm not like Pandora's box - you open it up and don't know what you're going to get. That's him."
Thomas hasn't played since being flagrantly fouled by Nets center Jason Collins in Game 1, taking a hard fall and bruising his hip, lower back and ankle. He was ruled out of Game 3.
Thomas made his first public comments since the foul at practice Wednesday, criticizing teammates for failing to retaliate and dismissing Martin as "fugazy" - a slang term for a fake.
"I think it applies to him more than me," Martin said
Asked to rank the use of the word "fugazy" on a 1 to 10 insult scale, Martin gave it a zero.
"If it was coming from someone who did something in his career, maybe," Martin said. "Coming from him, it's nothing."
Amid the increasing tension, Nets coach Lawrence Frank said he felt no need to remind his team of the NBA rule prohibiting players from leaving the bench area during a fight.
"Our focus is on winning, our focus isn't on bench control or fighting," Frank said.
Thomas wasn't at the Knicks' morning shootaround but was expected to be in street clothes at Thursday's game.
Martin was surprised Thomas would make such inflammatory comments on the eve of a game he wasn't planning to play in.
"He's a career underachiever. He hasn't done nothing in his career. I've been to the finals twice," Martin said. "His teammates in Milwaukee last year questioned him. That should tell you something right there.
"Sooner or later his teammates now are going to start questioning him calling people out when he's not playing."