Martell Webster arrived in Washington on a bargain basement deal, in need of career resuscitation after he had been discarded and dismissed from his previous employer. In one season, Webster far exceeded the value of his $1.75 million contract, established himself as a part of the team’s hard-working, selfless core and became one of the NBA’s most accurate long range shooters.
When the season ended, Webster didn’t hide his desire to return, believing that he had found, in his eighth season, a good fit with the Wizards. The Wizards also wanted him back, as president Ernie Grunfeld, owner Ted Leonsis and even John Wall all spoke of the need to make sure that he didn’t get away in free agency. With the full mid-level exception at its disposal, Washington used the entire amount to get Webster to agree to terms on a four-year deal worth $22 million, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
“It’s very reassuring. I’m secure. My family is happy about the situation. They love the city. So glad to be here,” Webster said in a telephone interview shortly after reaching the agreement.
Webster cannot sign the deal – which is only partially-guaranteed for the fourth year – until July 10, when the NBA moratorium on signings and trades comes to an end. But he anxious to build upon a career year in which he averaged career-highs of 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and shot 42.2 percent from beyond the three-point line, which ranked 12th in the NBA.
Webster notched career-highs of 34 points and seven made three-pointers in a March 16 win over Phoenix and served as vocal locker room presence, keeping his teammates loose through some early struggles with his playful banter. He also suited up for 76 games, including 62 starts, which was a significant accomplishment after enduring two injury-plagued seasons in Minnesota, where he never played more than 47 games in either campaign because of two back operations that had him contemplating retirement.
“I know what I don’t want to feel again. I know that’s the truth. That’s a catalyst for hard work. And I’ll continue to keep that burning image and feeling in my mind. So I have something to work off of,” Webster said. “I’m not satisfied. I’m comfortable, but I’m not satisfied. Satisfaction comes from my goals and the bar that I raised, not only for myself but for my teammates. So no satisfaction yet.”
Grunfeld repeatedly stated his intentions to bring back Webster, even though the team is already stocked at small forward with Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton and recent No. 3 overall draft pick, Otto Porter. Webster had surgery for a sports hernia last May but said he feel “great” and is willing to accept whatever role Coach Randy Wittman has for him, as a starter or coming off the bench. The Wizards plan to use the 6-foot-6 Webster at multiple positions, as they did last season, when he received heavy minutes at shooting guard.
“Whatever my role is, I’ll go out there and do it to the fullest. I’m ready,” Webster said. “That was my mentality and will continue to be my mentality for as long as my career lasts.
“This is where I wanted to be,” Webster said, who spent his first seven seasons in Portland and Minnesota. “This was special for me last year. Even though the numbers may not have shown but I knew what this team was capable of and the fact that we’re even stronger now and we know what we’re determined to do and we’ll be 100 percent. It should be a fun ride.”
Webster’s agreement comes a day after the team received a commitment from free agent point guard and former Virginia Commonwealth standout Eric Maynor to serve as a backup for John Wall. Maynor agreed to a two-year deal worth about $4 million and has a player option for the second year.
The Wizards currently have 12 players under contract for roughly $68 million – almost $2 million short of the luxury tax line – with second-round pick Glen Rice Jr. possibly pushing the roster at 13. The Wizards also expect to add defensive wing and third point guard Garrett Temple, which would leave the team with one remaining roster spot.
“I think what the team has done so far is incredible and the fact that we were able to add pieces and keep pieces, it shows the determination of this front office and this entire organization. The city, they’re thirsty for it. They deserve it and we as the players deserve it,” Webster said. “We’re not working to win 35 games. We’re getting to the playoffs.”
Former Wizard Antawn Jamison is open for a return to the organization where he made two all-star appearances and four playoff trips from 2004-10, according to sources close to the 37-year-old forward. But a source with knowledge of the Wizards’ plans said that a reunion with Jamison next season is “doubtful.”
Wall is eligible for a maximum contract extension, which could be signed sometime between now and the end of October. The former No. 1 overall pick is currently touring through China with adidas, but multiple league sources expect an agreement to be reached before the deadline.