Trevor Booker’s contributions can easily get overlooked in a regular season NBA game with structure and set plays, so a streetball exhibition probably isn’t the best place for the undersized but energetic power forward to have an influence on the outcome. Booker certainly wasn’t going to stand out during a game in which eyes were locked on the duel between Kevin Durant and LeBron James, the breathtaking moves of Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, and the unexpected highlight dunks of undersized guards Eric Bledsoe and Josh Selby.
But Booker didn’t decide to book a flight to Baltimore for one day — two days after Goodman League commissioner Miles Rawls called to extend an invitation — to put up big numbers. He just wanted to be back on the court again, playing against elite competition. Booker broke his right foot in March, right around the time when Flip Saunders had decided to give him some quality minutes, and his season ended prematurely.
Lower body injuries usually lead to some understandable weight gain, but Booker has been working out diligently all summer and he actually flashed a sleeker physique on Tuesday at Morgan State’s Hill Field House. In his first extended run since his injury Booker had a few emphatic dunks and battled for loose balls and rebounds in a tune up before he gets set to leave for Israel on Sept. 13.
“My foot feels pretty good,” Booker said after the Goodman all-stars lost to the Melo all-stars, 149-141. “We had some good competition out here and I definitely needed that.”
More than 4,500 people packed the gym for the game, providing an electric atmosphere on nearly every crossover dribble and alley-oop dunk. “Reminded me of when I was on the Wizards, a sold out crowd. Feels pretty good,” Booker said of the environment, which felt like the opposite of most games at Verizon Center.
Booker decided to sign with Bnei HaSharon of the Israeli Basketball League earlier this month, becoming the first Wizard to take his talents overseas as the NBA and the players’ union try to settle the labor dispute. He has an opt-out clause that will allow him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends, but he felt he had to go elsewhere with so much uncertainty.
“I didn’t get to finish my season. I feel like I got cheated a little bit, injuring my foot. So I wanted to go overseas and get some competition,” Booker said. “This is my first time experiencing something like this. It’s new to me, but I think I’m handling it pretty well.”
Booker has spent the past few weeks learning about Israel and his new team. He said he was excited to learn about a new culture. “I heard it’s very nice. Real nice,” Booker said of Israel. “I went to Serbia a couple of years ago with the USA team. That was a neat experience. I’m sure this will, too.”