Trevor Booker climbed Milwaukee Bucks center Samuel Dalembert for a putback slammed, then stared over at his bench, where his teammates hooted and hollered.
Then, just as he crossed half court, Booker stole the ball from Brandon Jennings and was sprinting down the court for another two-handed dunk. Afterward, Booker screamed and shouted loud enough for fans in half-empty Bradley Center to hear him. Again, his teammates reacted giddily.
“I like getting crunk,” Booker said of his emotional outbursts in the Wizards’ 102-94 victory over the Bucks. “That’s a part of me. That’s a part of my game. Off the court, I’m laid back. But on the court, I’m very passionate.”
In his third season, Booker is maturing into one of the most reliable commodities on the roster – at least when he isn’t hurt and able to play. In two preseason games after missing the first four with a left hamstring injury, Booker has scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 38 minutes.
But he added that the performances have merely confirmed the belief he has in himself.
“My confidence has always been there, the thing for me is just staying healthy,” said Booker, who has missed the end of the past two seasons with foot injuries. “If I stay healthy, I get to stay on the court and my confidence will be even higher.”
Booker started at power forward against Milwaukee and scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the first half. He elevated the energy level of his teammates while on the floor, playing with force and finesse: he off a pick-and-roll sequence late in the second quarter with point guard A.J. Price and finished with a nifty, driving finger roll.
“Without a doubt, he’s a huge asset for this team,” Price said of Booker. “Undersized at his position but what he lacks in size, he has in heart. ”Makes my job easier when I got a guy like that, that athletic at his position. whenever I get in trouble and things are going however, I pretty much can call pick and roll and know if they help off Book, he’s pretty much going to make the right decision with the ball, whether it be shooting or passing.”
Coach Randy Wittman planned to hold Booker to just 20 minutes, but with Booker playing so well, and the up-and-down tempo of the game, he got an extra two minutes. Booker sat the entire fourth quarter and Wittman said he never thought about putting him back in.
“I didn’t need to see any more,” Wittman said. “No temptation, not with the way everybody is banged up. If this was going on my career record…That win isn’t going anywhere, or the losses before that. This is when you experiment and there is no need to experiment with Book right now. Now, if it was a cold, but if you’re dealing with a hamstring and his wind isn’t where it was. He was gasping for air again last night. That’s usually when you get yourself in trouble.”
The preseason has served as a reminder of the way Booker can affect the game with his infectious energy, but he admitted that he isn’t all the way back.
“I’m trying to get my wind back, but it felt pretty good,” Booker said of being back on the floor. “Did what I did, played with a lot of energy. Try to play the right way.”