Martell Webster and Bradley Beal were shooting three-pointers at the conclusion of Friday’s practice when Beal stepped back and Webster tripped over him, sliding face first into the floor. Webster then gave Beal a glare to remind the rookie to look where he’s going and Coach Randy Wittman looked on, waiting until Webster got up, unscathed, to shoot some more.
Webster’s fall was one of the few times that he didn’t look good while sharing the floor with Beal, as the duo has come off the bench in the first two preseason games to halt some of the offensive lulls of the starting unit. They are the only Wizards to score in double figures in each exhibition game and Wittman intimated that one — or likely both — will get the opportunity to start when the team plays the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I’m not thinking of coming here and stealing somebody’s spot. I’m thinking about helping, making this team better,” Webster said. “I know if I do what I’m supposed to do, it’s all going to speak for itself. That’s just common sense.”
Webster was attracted to Washington during free agency because it presented an opportunity for him to compete for minutes, and possibly claim a starting job on the perimeter. And with Trevor Ariza having a difficult adjustment in his first two starts at small forward and the incumbent Chris Singleton playing mostly at power forward with the Wizards’ depleted front court, the 6-foot-7 Webster is making an early statement after scoring a team-high 18 points against Charlotte and grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds against New York.
“He gives us shooting, spacing on the floor. I think he’s gone and he’s tried to rebound the ball for us, help us on the boards some,” Wittman said of Webster. “All our bigs are missing in action right now so we’re piece-mealing some things. He has good size, and he’s given us a good spark off the bench.”
The Wizards were perhaps hopeful that Beal would have a solid start after drafting him third overall last June, but Webster was considered a low-risk, low-cost acquisition when he signed in August. He had a reputation as a shooter but is a bit of a reclamation project after his body betrayed him in his past few seasons in Portland and Minnesota.
Webster shot just 33.9 percent from beyond the three-point line last season, when he was recovering from his second back procedure in as many years. The Timberwolves were eager to cut ties with him, giving him a $600,000 buyout to avoid being on the hook for his full $5.7 million salary. Webster didn’t expect to return to Minnesota but he hadn’t thought about joining the Wizards until his agent, Dan Fegan, called him in Florida to let him know that the team was interested.
The Wizards signed Webster to a one-year deal worth slightly more than the league minimum, and he has taken on a role as a leader by example. He has been one of the more vocal players during practice, offering encouraging words and the occasional joke or dance to help his teammates remember that the game should be fun.