Just getting onto the basketball court has been a struggle for Wizards’ forward Trevor Booker this year. Just as the 6-foot-8 player was earning significant playing time last season, his first in the league, a broken foot ended his season prematurely.
And when he became the first Wizard to sign to seek employment abroad during the lockout, he bruised his right quadricep in a scrimmage in October playing for his Israeli team, Bnei HaSharon.
On Tuesday, Booker made his preseason debut, playing 21 minutes, displaying his stout defense and nabbing a team-high 11 rebounds in a 101-94 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. To the second-year player, it was comfortable feeling.
“I felt really good,” said Booker, who also played in an exhibition game in Baltimore during the lockout. “I think my last real game was over in Israel and that was almost three months ago. So it felt good to get back to some real competition. I’m hurting right now. But it felt good.”
Booker said the “hurting” had nothing to do with his bruised leg muscle, which he has recovered from, but from a high-energy performance against the 76ers, which included an athletic block of Thaddeus Young late in the third quarter of a one-point game. It was the type of showing that the Wizards will expect of Booker this season, a bench player who can play standout defense — a role he said he’s comfortable with.
“Not having a lot of practice time, he gave good energy,” Coach Flip Saunders said. “He played hard. I thought that the previous two days were the two best practices because of how hard he played. He obviously had the best legs, as far as the liveliest legs. That’s what he gives us.”
Playing and living in Israel and learning about a new culture and adopting to a different role on the court helped Booker mature. And it’s an experience he hopes will help him in Washington as hopes to build off his pre-injury performance. Last season, Booker averaged 16.4 minutes per game, starting in 14 with 5.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg.
“It helped me a lot as a person and player,” he said. “I got to experience some different things over there. It’s a whole different country, a whole different culture. It was a neat experience for me . . . I had a different role on the team. I was the main player over the there. I’m a role guy over here.”