Webster is averaging a career-high 10.8 points and supplanted Ariza as the starter after Ariza went down for 17 games with a strained left calf in early December. The sixth pick of the 2005 draft, Webster has rejuvenated his career after contemplating retirement last summer because of persistent back troubles.
“I finally got my back healthy,” Webster said recently. “It was very discouraging for me. My friends and my family believed in me and supported me throughout the whole process. It was brutal, it was tedious, but in the end, it was well worth it.”
The Timberwolves bought out Webster last summer for $600,000 to avoid paying him $5.7 million and the Wizards scooped him up for just $1.6 million, a considerable bargain given his production.
“He’s a good player and he’s having a very good year for them,” Minnesota Coach Rick Adelman said. “He’s always been a great three-point shooter and I know one thing about him, he competes. He competes every night, defensively as well. And I’m happy for him that he’s having a good year.”
Though Ariza would like to start — and considers himself a “sixth starter” — he has been more productive in a reserve role, averaging 9.8 points and shooting 43.4 percent from the field. Coach Randy Wittman often plays Ariza and Webster together and gave Ariza the starting nod for the first two games after rookie Bradley Beal went down with a sprained left ankle. Ariza struggled in both losses and Wittman replaced him with Garrett Temple against Charlotte to provide more ballhandling to assist Wall.
After Ariza became the first Wizards reserve since Christian Laettner in March 2001 to score at least 26 points and pull down 10 rebounds in a win, Wittman joked that he liked him coming off the bench.
“I don’t know to be honest with you. I can’t tell you,” Ariza said, when asked about his productivity off the bench as opposed to being a starter. “It is what it is. I’ve been making shots. Whatever it is that is going to help our team, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”