Wizards’ Martell Webster feeling comfortable at “home”

I'm back. I'm home. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
I’m back. I’m home. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

The jacket with the bright, lime green accents, the ‘frohawk hairstyle and the extra-long hairs on his chinny-chin chin were impossible to ignore as Martell Webster made a surprise visit for the Wizards’ open scrimmage on the second day summer league minicamp on Tuesday at Verizon Center.

Webster lifted his hand to acknowledge the applauding crowd, put down his jacket and strolled over to President Ernie Grunfeld to give him a hug and chat for a few minutes.

Though he won’t officially be back with the Wizards until he signs his four-year, $22 million contract on Wednesday, Webster was right at home. He even provided some entertainment for the adoring audience when he made a shot from the scorer’s table, some 40 or so feet from the basket. With fans applauding, Webster got up, raised his hands and grinned. Then, Webster looked over at Bradley Beal, waiting to see if he would attempt to match the shot.

“Brad stood me up. He was supposed to shoot the ball,” Webster said. “I told him I’d bet him anything. He wanted to bet me my contract. I was like, ‘Sure…I haven’t even signed it yet.’ Let it rain!”

Webster’s sense of humor will continue to lighten up the Wizards locker room, but on the eve of his signing, the eight-year veteran swingman said he fretted that he would have to look elsewhere for employment after the Wizards drafted small forward Otto Porter Jr. and shooting guard Glen Rice Jr. last month.

“After my first couple of years and just understanding the politics of the NBA, this is a business and that’s exactly how you have to treat it, how you have to approach it,” Webster said. “They make draft picks, they’re gonna make draft picks. If they don’t want to go with me, then they don’t want to go with me. I’m not going to be hurt about it. I just have to move on. So, when they picked Otto, I was like, ‘I can see where they’re going with it. There might be a chance I won’t be in Washington next year.’ That was the end of that. I didn’t think too much into it. I knew I was going to get picked up regardless.”

Webster flew to Washington the day before the free agent negotiation period began, but is adamant that he only showed up for a checkup with Wizards doctors and head athletic trainer Eric Waters after having surgery to fix a sports hernia suffered at the tail end of his career season with the team. He also planned to receive a rehabilitation regimen for the offseason. But as he was sitting in his hotel room, contemplating his future, Webster said he told himself, “This feels right. I feel like I’m home.”

Grunfeld eased any nerves Webster may have had on July 1, when he strolled from his office and to discuss the Wizards’ plans and the reason for their moves at the draft.

“Ernie came down  and talked to me and said, ‘This doesn’t change anything,’ ” Webster said. “I knew it was going to happen, I knew I was going to come back here. It was just a matter of moving pieces and getting things done, freeing up some space. They got the job done and I’m excited.”

When asked if he had received interest from other teams, Webster replied, “Yeah, but we don’t need to talk about it.”

Webster observed the Wizards’ draft picks as they guarded each other during the scrimmage, attacking each other and showcasing their skills. Porter made some difficult shots over Rice and avoided providing highlights while settling for simple fundamentals. Rice had been connecting on his jumper in previous practices, but failed to knock down many of his open looks. Still, Webster came away impressed with both players.

“They have potential,” Webster said. “I can tell with Otto that he’s a player that likes to let the game come to him, which is important especially being young coming into this league. Not forcing anything, but also finding his opportunities to be aggressive. Right now he’s just being a sponge, trying to soak up as much as he can. Right now it’s just a learning process coming from college into the NBA. The shot clock is a little bit different, the style of play is a little bit different. You can see he has open mind and is just trying to learn as much as he can.

“As far as the team goes, I definitely see the route coach is going. He’s trying to get out and run,” Webster said. “He’s trying to push the tempo, be that young and exciting team that will get out and run on the break. I can definitely tell with the style of play out there that its get the ball up the court as fast as possible.”

With the Wizards planning to push the tempo, Webster will have to get prepared for a nightly track meet. But first, Webster will have to get healthy. After spending the past two offseasons recovering from back ailments, Webster now has to recover from problems with his abdomen.

“I feel great now,” Webster said of his recovery. “It’s different because I just had surgery. It’s just focusing on my midsection area, the core, the area I had surgery to strengthen it up. Not only the front but also the back, the glutes, lower back as well as everything else. When you have an injury, the rehab is the most important thing. It’s not like I’m hurt, it’s just that once you get injured and have surgery, a lot of your muscles shut off. I didn’t do anything for a month and a half. It’s just getting those things turned back on and warmed back up.”

Webster is focused on making it back on the floor at his best, but he secure in knowing that he doesn’t have to worry about finding a new place to live. “This is going to be the primary home,” Webster said.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · July 10, 2013

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