Trevor Booker kept making plays that should’ve been momentum-changers and inspired his teammates to wake up during a lethargic first-half effort in the Wizards’ 94-88 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. But whether it was a volleyball spike dunk on Cody Zeller, a steal and fastbreak dish to Bradley Beal for a layup, Booker was just an island of high energy, surrounded by a sea of sluggishness.
“He was the one guy in the first half that was out flying around,” Wittman said of Booker. “And we showed it at half time and I told them, ‘I’ve got one guy out here that’s playing with any effort, it’s Book.’ And I thought he was really good for us.”
Booker finished with 16 points, his second-highest scoring out of the season, and added a season-high five blocked shots, the second-highest total of his career. Four of Booker’s rejections came in the third quarter, when he came over the top to swat Gerald Henderson, sent two Kemba Walker layup attempts into the front row along the baseline, and jumped out to clip a Gary Neal jumper.
His defensive effort finally proved to be contagious as the Wizards rallied from a 20-point first half deficit to enter the fourth quarter trailing by five.
And what was Booker’s reward for that effort? He got to watch the entire fourth period from the bench.
“I think Book, the reason we stayed close into the game, he had a heck of a first half,” John Wall said. “I felt like he could’ve played a little bit more down the stretch the way he was competing.”
Wittman finally put Booker back into the game in overtime, but he didn’t have much of an influence on the outcome. After making his first four field goals, Booker missed his only shot attempt in the extra frame.
Now that Nene is back from his sprained left knee, Wittman finally has his full complement of big men and some tough decisions to make about his rotation and minute allotment for the final four games of the season.
He made the relatively easy choice of keeping Booker in the starting lineup as he attempted to ease back the Brazilian big man. But he struggled to find the proper way of managing Nene’s minute restriction while making sure that Booker and Drew Gooden got enough action in the loss. Al Harrington was the odd man out against the Bobcats, but Wittman said that could change.
“I’ll play it depending on matchups and things of that nature,” Wittman said. “Al will have a chance to play. Depending on who we’re matched up against and stuff, that will all work itself out.”
Booker’s role is bound to change when Nene regains confidence and comfort in his knee, but he plans to be more assertive offensively. Opponents have been daring Booker to take shots and his teammates have encouraged him to attack the basket. “My teammates were telling me, when I have open shots, shoot it, be more aggressive. They have confidence in me. They see the way I play in practice. It’s a little different than the game offensively, so I guess the next few games, I’ll be more aggressive,” Booker said. “Hopefully, it’ll carry over to the next game. We had practices and I was pretty aggressive in those practices in scoring the ball.”
Marcin Gortat actually credited Nene’s return with contributing to Booker’s performance. “I guess, he needs Nene to feel that breath on his back,” Gortat joked. ”Everybody was on Book the past few games. We tell him he’s got to shoot the ball and do what he can do. He was great. He was outstanding, he was hustling. He got to play like this every day.”
Booker was upset that the Wizards played so poorly in a game that they needed to secure the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, but he hasn’t given up on the final four games. “Keep playing,” Booker said. “We still got a chance to take our spot back, so we’re going to keep fighting and let things work out.”