[An old Wizard and the newest Wizard unite in Portland circa 2010,
picture via the Internets.]
“This is the best my body’s felt in the last five years,” said Martell Webster in a conference call with D.C. media on Wednesday afternoon, fresh off officially signing a contract with the Washington Wizards.
He’d been training in Tampa, FL when his agent told him that Washington might be interested. Up to that point, the Wizards weren’t even on Webster’s radar.
“I went down to D.C., they flew me out, and the atmosphere, right when I landed — when the guys picked me and met me at the hotel — was incredible,” said Webster, who worked out for the Wizards last week. “I went and looked over the roster, and the team has made moves to put this team possibly in that seventh or eighth seed. To me, it’s all about getting into the playoffs and exceeding that, because I’ve only made it to the first round. And I think we have a legitimate chance of making some noise.”
Webster has had a couple microdiscectomy surgeries (a minimally invasive method of fixing a herniated disc) on his back in the past two years, one in October 2010 and another toward the end of September 2011. After a late start to last season due to the lockout, he still found himself trying to fully recover in February, and his game suffered. This summer has been different.
“I really feel like I have a wonderful opportunity to go out and showcase what I can really do,” said Webster about being in D.C., in good health. “Because now that I’m comfortable with my body and the way I feel in my health, I can really go out there and prove that.”
But what will he bring to the Wiz kids come training camp in about a month?
“I’m going in with the mindset of really trying to compete for that 3 position. I think what I bring to the table that we’re kind of lacking on the team is pure perimeter shooting. I think that I can contribute in a very positive way in that area,” he said. “And also defending… Trevor Ariza is a wonderful defender, and he can score the ball, too, as a slasher, so we compliment each other very well. It really doesn’t matter about starting,” Webster concluded, with nary a mention of Chris Singleton, who will also be in the mix for time at the 3 (he is the incumbent starter, after all).
But is Webster only around to chuck the ball from beyond the arc?
“I wouldn’t call myself a 3-point specialist. To define a 3-point specialist, a perfect example would be Kyle Korver or Ryan Anderson — I actually have more slashing in my game, back-door cuts… I’m able to put the ball on the floor, one to two dribbles… I’ve been working on more of that this offseason.”
Webster later reiterated that ball-handling and shots off the dribble are the two primary areas that he’s been concentrating on in Florida, but back to that defense.
“All the training you do doesn’t make you a good defensive player, your heart does,” Webster said. Well stated.
“To me, it’s all about getting into the playoffs and exceeding that, because I’ve only made it to the first round. And I think we have a legitimate chance of making some noise.”
Let’s be honest, the Wizards brass knows their reputation by proxy of the array of “characters” who have assembled (and disassembled) the team in the past couple of years. Webster was asked about coming East to play ball after spending most of his life west of the Mississippi River — he grew up in Washington state, attended prep school in Seattle, was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers, and later traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He said he spoke with fellow Washington state native Nate Robinson about the East Coast. Robinson described the change of pace as young and fun compared to the easy-going West. But don’t count Webster among those who will get caught up with “the life” in Washington (the life that young millionaires like Andray Blatche enjoyed a little too much). His answer was simple: he’s married, with children, and is looking forward to seeing some monuments.
The biggest takeaway is that Webster calls the Wizards a “legitimate” opportunity. With his experience on rebuilding teams in both Portland and Minnesota, he knows how to be around yet another young and rebuilding squad and act as a leader.
“Even if you’re not used to being vocal, you have to step that up,” said Webster, continuing by essentially saying that quiet lips can sink NBA ships.
When it comes to acclimating himself around the face of the franchise, John Wall, Webster is already ahead of the game.
“John Wall is an amazing talent, we’ve all seen that,” he said, indicating that he played with Wall recently in D.C. when interviewing with the Wizards, in addition to teaming up with him for a charity game in Spokane, WA.
“What he can do, his eyes and his vision on the court, is crazy. I’m excited to play with him, and I’ll think I’ll be able to get him a lot of assists this year.”
With the Wizards’ offense expected to go through struggles integrating new talent, young options, and a head coach with his first full training camp, Wall will need all the help he can get racking up assists. Webster could be that sleeper option who either pushes his Wizards teammates to elevate their games, or who rises to the top to be a shot-maker himself.
So, a toast to new arrivals, and more importantly, a toast to health.