Martell Webster beginning to find his groove

January 14, 2013

I give that a thumbs up. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Martell Webster made a difficult, gliding jumper as Atlanta Hawks forward Kyle Korver fouled him in the first quarter of the Wizards’ 93-83 win on Saturday and Nene was so excited that he couldn’t hold back – though Webster wishes he had.

“I don’t know if you guys saw it. … Nene smacked the heck out of me,” Webster said with a laugh. “I started missing free throws, and after that I was like you probably got to back away from those celebrations a little bit so I can focus a little bit more on the free throw line.”

Webster, an 84.3 percent shooter from the foul line this season, missed four free throws in the game but still finished with 15 points. Later in the first half, Webster tossed a post entry pass to Nene, made a hard cut to the basket and was rewarded when Nene zipped the ball back to him in stride. Webster then elevated over Hawks reserve DeShawn Stevenson and threw down a one-handed jam.

“I told my teammates that I had to catch somebody. I didn’t think he was going to jump,” Webster said of Stevenson, who simply turned and walked away. “It’s just a great basketball play, great vision from Nene, making that pass. That’s the way we want to play. It could’ve been anybody on the receiving end of that pass. As long as you go up and power it and finish, that’s the most important thing.”

But after Webster’s third and most impressive dunk of the night, Nene kept his distance. Webster was left alone to flex, pose, bounce, stare at the rim and admire his work. Yes, he missed the free throw afterward, but the post-dunk celebration could’ve easily represented Webster’s chance to gloat about his play of late.

Webster has started the past 19 games since Trevor Ariza strained his left calf on Dec. 4 in a win over the Miami Heat but has been coming on in the new year – with the exception of a scoreless outing in Indiana. He has scored in double figures in four consecutive games, averaging 15.3 points over that stretch, and matched Bradley Beal with a team-high 22 points in the Wizards upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s the mental approach for me,” Webster said. “Understanding that if you treat every game like you’re playing the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City, if I continue to do that, then I’ll continue to play the way that I’m playing.”

Coach Randy Wittman likely will put Ariza back in the starting lineup when he regains his conditioning but Webster has been a capable fill-in, though he has been more efficient this season in a reserve role. He leads the Wizards in three-point shooting at 39.6 percent but expects to have a few more clean looks now that John Wall is back.

“It opens the court up, opens it wide open,” Webster said. “He’s able to penetrate and find guys on opposite sides, either side of the ball, and guys were knocking down jump shots. Once we get more into a rhythm with having John out there, I think that we’ll start to complement his game very well.”

Webster was disappointed that the Wizards (6-28 after beating Atlanta in Wall’s season debut) couldn’t post a better record in Wall’s absence, but he praised his teammates for staying professional and competitive to create a better environment in which the 2010 No. 1 overall pick could settle.

“It shows you how tenacious we are. We’re resilient,” Webster said. “Even though we’ve come up with the short end of the stick, we’re giving ourselves a fighting chance. Now that we’re trying to get back into tip-top form, that’s going to complement the way that we play.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · January 13, 2013