Trevor Booker’s right foot in a protective boot and his season is over. If Booker had broken a bone in his right foot in early January, it might not have been a big deal, because he rarely played. He had become so much an afterthought that Coach Flip Saunders made a threat to send him to the NBA Developmental League if he didn’t start using his energy and athleticism in games.
But the season-ending injury became a major setback since it came in late March, disrupting the tremendous progress Booker had made, and at a time when the Wizards were depleted at forward because of injuries and a buyout.
After stepping down hard, trying to box out for a rebound late in a loss to Denver, Booker attempted to come back the next game against Golden State. The soreness in the ball of his foot, near his big toe, never subsided. “I knew it was something. A lot of pain. I just didn’t know what,” Booker said, and his worst fears were supported on Wednesday when he discovered that he had a fractured sesamoid bone.
“I was at first, when I found out I was out six to eight weeks,” Booker said, when asked if he disappointed to lose the rest of his rookie season. “But the season is almost over.”
In some ways, Booker was happy that the injury came when it did, because it came after he had already proven that he could be a valuable contributor for the Wizards. Booker averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 65 games this season, but in 14 starts, those numbers were nearly doubled (10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds).
“I think I had a pretty good season. I can’t complain too much,” Booker said. ”My confidence, it was rising, each game I played.”
The Wizards knew that Booker was a phenomenal athlete with an exceptional motor, but they weren’t exactly sure at what position Booker was going to be most effective when he entered the league. At 6-feet-7, he was too small to be a prototypical power forward and lacked the ball handling or shooting ability to play small forward.
But they got a hint in late January, when Booker found himself guarding Kevin Durant and Zach Randolph in back-to-back starts. Durant and Randolph got their usual numbers, but Booker made them earn it, and had a combined 33 points, 24 rebounds and three blocked shots. Booker showed that he could guard both forward positions while bringing a physical presence to the front line.
When Andray Blatche, Josh Howard and Rashard Lewis went down with injuries and Al Thornton took a buyout to go to Golden State, Booker averaged 11.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in eight starts in March, having a career night in Toronto, where he had career-highs with 26 points and 13 rebounds. Saunders said Booker got better once he realized that his time in Washington wasn’t guaranteed and that North Dakota was always an option.
“He was in a tough situation, because he had some veteran guys in front of him,” Saunders said of Booker. “Then I talked to him, I told him, one of the reasons we got you is because of your energy level and how hard you play. That’s your greatest strength, and your athleticism and running the floor. And you’re not doing that at this time. I said, ‘If we need to get you down to the D-League, then we’ll do that. He came out and basically, from that time has been playing with a great amount of energy.
“It’s always that thing you go through. Do you play good when you get time? Or do you play good and then you get your time?” Saunders said. “Coaches look at it one way and players look at it another way.”
Now that his first season is over, Booker was pleased with his development, but also disappointed.
“It was a difficult season for my first season, just because we didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked,” he said. “But we had a lot of injuries. We couldn’t get a chemistry going because we didn’t know who was going to play and who was not. So it’s kind of difficult. But the last few games, we’ve really been improving.”
Booker is still unsure if he will have surgery, but said he isn’t worried about the injury affecting his offseason workout plans. “Not really, because, I’m going to have a long summer to get ready,” Booker said. “So I’m just looking forward to next season.”