“Even on a bum foot, I could still run a little bit,” Dekker said after Washington’s 109-101 loss Monday to the Indiana Pacers. “It was good to get out there and knock some of the rust off.
“I was just itching to get on the court. I knew Coach [Scott] Brooks didn’t want to throw me out to the wolves right away, but we had some injuries and he asked me if I was ready to go and I said, ‘Let’s try it out.’ ”
In the third quarter, the Wizards (11-16) rallied from a 25-point deficit to pull within one. Though the team could not complete the comeback, the moment Dekker stepped on the court — “bum foot” and all — the energy shifted in favor of the Wizards.
With Otto Porter Jr. out with a right knee contusion, John Wall on the inactive list with left heel soreness and rookie Troy Brown Jr. on a G-League assignment, the Wizards lacked wing and guard depth. In any other scenario, Dekker might not have been the choice to check in at the 4:05 mark of the third quarter with Washington trailing 87-62. Brooks indicated before the game that Dekker’s opportunities could be limited while he transitions to the team. But with few options, Brooks turned to Dekker. The game immediately turned around.
“Effort and energy and his motor. That’s just how he plays. He obviously got a little winded out there. He hasn’t played in a while. I liked what I saw,” Brooks said. “He plays hard. You can tell that he plays with a lot of enthusiasm and loves the game. And it shows.
“It’s really a simple game. You just have to play hard at it.”
Moments after checking in, Dekker swung a pass to Markieff Morris, who drained a 16-foot jumper. That shot sparked a 19-0 run that carried into the fourth quarter. During that stretch, Dekker fit effortlessly into the Wizards' positionless unit — collecting two steals, spacing the floor (although not hitting a perimeter shot) and capping a fast break with a dunk.
“He was able to just free-flow on the court, which everybody is capable of doing and free to do. I like what I’ve seen from him,” Bradley Beal said, echoing his coach. "[Dekker] punched somebody today, so that’s always a great sign. We’re just going to continue to implement him and continue to ease him into [the game].”
In just over 10 minutes of game time, the Wizards outscored Indiana by 20 points with Dekker on the court.
“I just tried to come in and play hard. That was my first time on the court in over a month,” Dekker said. “So I knew I was going to be rusty. The only thing I could control was playing hard and I thought I was able to do that.”
Dekker hasn’t been able to control becoming sort of an NBA journeyman at the start of his career. In 2016, the Houston Rockets drafted Dekker and in his second season, he thrived as a reserve in Mike D’Antoni’s free-flowing offense. But he has since made brief stops with the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers before joining Washington — a hectic life for a newly married man.
“I feel so bad making her move,” Dekker said of his wife, ESPN reporter Olivia Harlan Dekker. “This is our third time making her move. I feel terrible about it. She’s such a rock star for that, but she’s been really good through all this in keeping me sane. It can’t be easy on her. … This doesn’t affect just me. It’s my whole family and my wife but she’s great and we’re going to make it work.”
Although Dekker has bounced around, he believes his reputation has followed him. Energy and max effort are the things he can control. On Monday night, Dekker stood out while trying to fit in.
“There’s still going to be some growing pains there, learning the stuff, learning how to play with the guys, and the guys were great tonight, just helping with me, talking with me and helping me be in the right positions,” Dekker said. “I’m just coming to fit in and show them that I’m here to play, play hard, and if I do that, I think I’ll be fine.”