Trevor Booker’s postgame routine was the same as most other nights on Saturday. He sat shirtless in his game shorts, applying ice to both knees while checking his iPhone. But he took a little longer than usual to get ready after the Washington Wizards’ 106-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Verizon Center, needing time to gather his thoughts and reflect after participating in what he called the most difficult game he had ever suited up to play.
The reason for Booker’s angst had nothing to do with what occurred on the floor and was evident the moment he slipped on his dark gray Wizards sweatshirt. Clipped on the left side was Booker’s name tag from Children’s National Medical Center, where nearly 10 hours earlier he waited nervously while doctors performed a surgical procedure on his 3-month-old son, Jaxson.
“It was pretty tough,” Booker said of his decision to play. “I was torn.”
Jaxson had developed an infection in his lymph node that caused some swelling behind his ear. Booker, 26, and his fiancee, April Dixon, knew something was wrong but waited until the day after Christmas to take Jaxson to see a doctor.
“He really wasn’t ill,” Booker said. “The knot just popped up, and if you touched it, it was real tender and he would start crying. So we wanted to get it checked out, and I’m glad we did.”
Booker was forced to leave his family to head to Minnesota for Friday’s 120-98 loss against the Timberwolves. While getting dressed in the locker room after the game, Booker sat in a corner checking his phone and learned his son would need surgery. Once he spotted Coach Randy Wittman walking out of the coach’s office, Booker immediately hopped up to track him down.
“I just told Coach I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play [on Saturday], we would keep in touch and I would let him know,” Booker said.
The Wizards arrived from Minneapolis at Dulles International Airport around 3 a.m. Saturday, and Booker drove directly to the hospital to be with his family. Booker stayed up all night with Jaxson, conceding he probably took about a two- or three-hour nap on a couch in the waiting area. After the 30-minute surgery concluded successfully around 1 p.m., Booker stayed close by and still wasn’t certain whether he should leave Jaxson to play against the Pistons.
“If something had went wrong or it had been a complication during the surgery, there was no way I was going to play,” Booker said. “It was tough. I wanted to be there with him. And I knew the team needed me. The surgery went well, so that’s why I decided to come play.”
Throughout the day, Booker’s teammates and coaches offered support by sending encouraging voice mails and text messages while he sat in the hospital. They rallied around Booker when he came directly to Verizon Center and prepared to make his eighth consecutive start at power forward.
“Me and Book, we talked before the game,” Nene said. “I told him, if you’re going to play, you’re going to do your best, to represent your son, and he did an amazing job.”
Booker played a team-high 32 minutes, scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds while helping to keep former Georgetown star Greg Monroe from hurting the Wizards as he has in the past.
“I do that every game. That’s my game. Hitting the boards and playing with energy,” Booker said afterward, though he added he wasn’t quite sure where he found the energy to compete with little sleep and concern over his son. “It was definitely on my mind.”
Booker’s mother, Tracey, and Dixon’s mother traveled to assist the family, making it easier for him to take a break to play the game. “If they weren’t there, I probably wouldn’t have played,” Booker said.
Booker has three kids — a 3-year-old named Trevor Jr. and 8-year-old Kairah, Dixon’s daughter from a previous relationship. But those close to the 6-foot-7 forward refer to his newborn son as “his heart.” Booker enjoys rushing home from games and practices to feed Jaxson and change his diapers.
Jaxson’s birth has even forced Booker to be more serious than ever about his career, especially since he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. Frustrated about his lack of playing time earlier this season, Booker mentioned he was playing for more than himself this season and couldn’t help but think about his future.
“It’s definitely something I’m worried about,” Booker said in early December.
Since then, Booker has seen his role expanded and became a starter when Nene suffered more complications with tendinitis in his right Achilles’ heel. Nene has returned but is on a minute limitation that makes it easier to come off the bench. The Wizards have gone 4-4 since the change was made, with Booker averaging 10.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in those contests.
“It feels good,” Booker said of his increased responsibility. “Whatever they want to do, start me or bringing me off the bench, I’m comfortable in either role.”
Booker also found comfort after Saturday’s win, when he drove from the arena back to the hospital and saw Jaxson was smiling and laughing again. And as the Wizards prepare for Monday’s rematch against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Booker will lean on that image to push him through.