In 71 total minutes over four preseason games, three starts, Trevor Booker posted the following averages per 36 minutes: 22.3 points (.567 FG%), 7.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.0 turnovers — per 36 numbers that faintly reflect Chris Webber’s second season as a Washington Bullet (but we’ll let the comparison stop right there). Trouble spots in Booker’s brief preseason window have included his free throw percentage (.600 — his career average is .639 and he shot .602 from the stripe last season) and fouls (4.6 fouls per 36 in the preseason, up from a career rate of 3.9). But any preseason concerns are far dwarfed by the solid all-around game Booker has shown in action that’s the first evidence of his offseason work.
Along with John Wall and Kevin Seraphin, Booker is one of the longest-standing pillars of the Wizards rebuild effort. And from that trio, Booker might have improved the most since being drafted by Washington in June 2010. Part of it is that improving efforts from Wall and Seraphin have gotten more attention. Wall was the No. 1 overall draft pick and proclaimed face of the franchise and Seraphin was an Olympian for France. Plus, when the Wizards were making their vaunted run at the end of last season with Wall, Seraphin and dashes of Nene, Booker was riding the bench. He missed the last 15 games, including the Wizards winning eight of their last 10, due to the very same ailment currently keeping Nene on the sidelines, plantar fasciitis.
“We actually had the same injury, same foot, and got it at the same time,” Booker told me on media day 2012. “I mean, it was something new to me, but we’re getting through it. I just had to stay off my feet for a little while. Now I’m back. I feel pretty good. And I’m ready for the season.”
Booker still ended up missing the first four games of the preseason with what he called a “grade one” left hamstring pull. But he’s better now. He’s ready to continue with defensive toughness, ready to show an improved jump shot, and ready to prove his worth in minutes. The “Cook Book” is ready to starting frying the opposition, and he’ll likely do so as the starting 4 to begin the season on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Aside from health, one area Booker said he worked on his offseason was his jump shot. But unlike Wall, he said he didn’t have a shooting coach, didn’t tinker with his shooting form, and didn’t chart his progress. When asked how many shots he thought he got up per day, Booker said, “I just shot until I got tired.” He really is a dude of little frills (but he certainly loves his reality television).
More important than Booker’s developing jumper that will keep defenses honest off high pick-and-roll action, more important than his deceptive threats as a left-hander who can power drive from the elbow, and more important than budding post moves like recipe ingredients coming together, is Booker’s selflessness. He’s a guy who knows his role, and while it seems that his offense is becoming a serious threat, it’s not a threat to make him reckless. If anyone best represents the transition in Washington’s locker room, it’s Booker.
He’s not an outside-in big man, allergic to contact, absent from basketball growth in college, lacking a heart, and having been told all his life that his skills will take him somewhere. No, Trevor Booker is undersized but loves to dip his brush in the paint. He enjoys dishing it out, and he’s willing to take it. He toiled for four years at Clemson and knows that he must take his skills some place, not the other way around. And that seems like a damn good recipe for something good.
The GIFs below represent spawned unselfishness on this new Wizards team. Initiated by hockey assists from Martell Webster, Booker shows the ability to make the extra pass, finding new teammate Earl Barron in both instances as a very good Spurs team tries their best to make it difficult on defense. It’s all about ball movement, and seeing it from the Wiz Kids is very refreshing.
And of course: Offense
Booker’s sweet up-and-under around Boris Diaw with an encroaching Kawhi Leonard.