Wizards’ Martell Webster on deal: ‘It’s a testament to hard work’


I’m back! (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The day before he agreed to remain with the Wizards, Martell Webster was at relative ease. He spoke briefly with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld on Monday but left the negotiations up to his agent, Dan Fegan, and even took some time catch the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” at the Gallery Place theater next to Verizon Center.

“No stress. No stress,” Webster said of his emotions during the free agent recruiting period in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I’ve been blessed to play this game. I was never worried about basketball. I always knew that if I take care of what I need to take care of, things will fall into place. And they did.”

Before discussions began with the Wizards, Webster made it clear that he wanted to stay, but he also wanted to be wanted. Webster had to wonder about his place in Washington after Trevor Ariza picked up his option for next season and the team acquired Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. in the draft. But Grunfeld was able to erase any doubt about the Wizards’ desire to keep him around when he presented Webster with a four-year deal worth $22 million.

“It’s a testament to hard work,” Webster said of the deal, which won’t be signed until the NBA’s moratorium on signings and trades ends on July 10.

Webster was forced to put in some serious work last offseason, when the Minnesota Timberwolves bought him out for $600,000 of the $5.7 million remaining on his contract. Still recovering from a second back surgery, Webster went to Bradenton, Fla., to train and get ready for an opportunity that he didn’t know would come – until the Wizards offered him a low-cost deal worth $1.75 million and an opportunity to prove himself once again.

“Things happen, it’s how you bounce back from it,” Webster said. “Luckily, I have a strong family. They motivated me and supported me and encouraged me. All that played into it.”

Webster, the sixth overall pick of the 2005 NBA draft, had to wait until his eighth season to have the best season of his career. He averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, shot 42.2 percent from the field and was also a scrappy defender.

“Eventually, I found the right unit. Unfortunately some injuries happened, but everybody showed their potential. Everybody stepped up when their name was called,” Webster said, adding that he expects the Wizards to end a five-year playoff drought next season. “Of course. Of course I do.”

Aside from finishing with a 29-53 record, the other downside to Webster’s first season in Washington was that it ended abruptly when he suffered an abdominal strain that forced him to sit the final five games of the season. He had surgery for a sports hernia last May but expects to be ready in time for training camp.

“I feel great. My goal on getting to the postseason is that by this time next year, I’ll have a healthy offseason and I don’t have to worry about any injuries or nursing anything,” said Webster, who missed most of the 2008-09 season with a broken right foot. “Being healthy is my main goal throughout this entire year and the rest of this offseason. The surgery was successful and just moving on from there.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · July 2, 2013