From the way he was hammering down authoritative dunks and snatching rebounds, it was hard to believe that only three days before, Trevor Booker’s left hand was so sore that he couldn’t catch a pass without wincing and struggled simply to palm the ball.
Booker sprained his left pinkie in the Wizards’ loss to Oklahoma City on Monday and he wore tape on his hand as he worked out in Toronto. But when he stepped on the court for what would turn out to be a career night, the tape was gone and so, seemingly, was the pain.
Booker got the Wizards started on Friday, when JaVale McGee rebounded a John Wall miss and found him cutting to basket for slam dunk. By the time he was forced to sit after picking up his sixth foul, Booker had scored a career-high 26 points on an incredibly efficient 12-of-15 shooting, and matched his career-high with 13 rebounds. (He should’ve had 14 rebounds, but McGee accidentally knocked one out of his hands in a teammate-only battle for a missed free throw.)
“I felt good going into the game,” Booker said after the Wizards’ 116-107 loss at Air Canada Centre. “We got off to a pretty good start, then foul trouble slowed me down.”
It was pretty clear that it would be a special night for Booker as he scored 12 points with five rebounds — two offensive — in the first quarter, showing considerable aggression as he drove to the basket and finished with both hands. He didn’t have to do much to improve from his performance in Chicago, where he was limited to just two points and four rebounds.
“I thought Booker played with great energy,” Coach Flip Saunders said. “He had a bad hand. He’s been having problems catching the ball. Maybe he’s right-handed, because he’s shooting more right-handed shots than left-handed shots.”
Booker has never been noted as an offensive weapon, with most of his scoring coming from hustle or broken plays. He is averaging just 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds this season, but in 10 starts, the rookie from Clemson averages 10.7 points and 8.1 rebounds.
And, when Booker gets rolling, he really rolls. He has scored at least 21 points three times this season and his shooting percentage in those games is an awesome 83.3 percent (30 for 36). On Friday, Booker was able to work his way inside, providing a much-needed presence with Andray Blatche seated on the bench in the suit. His confidence seemed to grow with every jump hook that dropped.
“I just tried to take what the defense was giving me,” Booker said. “I saw some opportunities to drive, so I tried to take that. If my teammates were open, I got them the ball.”
Booker also had three assists, which is one shy of his career high and more than seven times his season average (0.4). His performance was more impressive since he had to gut it out through some lingering pain in his shooting hand.
“I’ve been getting treatment the last couple of games. It feels better than it did in Chicago. I can shoot the ball now. I couldn’t shoot it in Chicago,” Booker said of his hand injury, adding that he didn’t hurt too badly. “Not really, I guess because of adrenaline. At one time, somebody swiped down and it started burning a little, but it’s fine.”
Looked like it.