by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad
The last time Martell Webster’s name was in SLAM as more than a footnote, the Trail Blazers had just made him the No. 6 pick in the ’05 NBA Draft, the last year high schoolers could make the jump straight to the L. Then a teenage prep star from Seattle, WA, Webster would get to stay in the Pacific Northwest.
But after being miscast and suffering a slew of injuries in Portland and later Minnesota, the 6-7 wing signed a one-year deal in Washington last summer, where he carved out a role as one of the NBA’s best long-range shooters and posted career-highs in nearly every statistical category, including minutes (28.9 per game), points (11.4) and three-point shooting (42 percent).
Webster says he prefers not to critique his own game bit by bit, but acknowledges that he had a hardwood revival in DC. How?
“Just experience,” he says. “You begin to prioritize. Your individual game and certain things aren’t important anymore, like trying to score all the points, prove to everybody I can dribble and whatnot. That’s not a big factor; it’s just playing the game and getting wins.”
And while the Wizards may only have won 29 games, Webster was part of a combination that—when finally at full strength, health-wise—had Washington looking the part of a Playoff contender post-All-Star break.
Says Webster, reflecting during the final week of the season: “I think that we as a unit have completely turned this organization, this franchise, a 180. We really have something to focus on for next year. My only focus is on getting better and helping contribute to this team in a more positive way.”
In the midst of that turnaround, on March 16, he dropped a career-best 34 points in a win over the Suns, including seven treys.
Having finally tapped into his considerable potential by finding a niche as a floor-spreading swingman, Webster wishes he could have given his younger self some advice.
“Let the game come to you. Don’t try to force anything, play off your teammates. That’s the most important thing,” says the 26-year-old, having wrapped up his eighth season. “A lot of guys come into the League thinking that it’s most important to have the ball in their hands. But you can be very effective—as effective as having the ball in your hands—without it in your hands, you just have to know how to move without it.”