Webster's sacrifice signifies shift in culture

Webster's sacrifice signifies shift in culture
April 2, 2013, 1:15 am
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Martell Webster had every reason to want the ball, but in the huddle the eighth-year small forward deferred to a rookie.

The moment came late in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 109-92 win vs. the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Webster, who won't admit that he is bothered by an abdominal strain, was just 2-for-9 shooting.

Bradley Beal, playing his first game after missing five because of a left ankle sprain, was on fire. He scored 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including three consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter, to spark the Wizards (27-46). It's their most victories in a season since they last made the playoffs in 2007-08. None of the current roster is a holdover from that era.

Coach Randy Wittman designed play for Webster to get the shot, with John Wall delivering the pass, until Webster over-ruled him.

“When he drew up a play at the end that had me coming out of the opposite side with John penetrating for the open shot, I looked at coach, ‘He’s shooting in the ball. Put him in that position,’” Webster said of pointing to Beal.

Wittman’s retort: “‘You’re right about that.”

He then switched the play for Beal to get the ball.

After taking the pass, Beal used an up-fake to get by his defender, aware that he'd already made 6 of 9 three-point shots. Beal got into the paint for a layup.

It was a rather meaningless basket that put the Wizards ahead 106-90 at 2:12. It was Beal's final shot and Wall's 10th and final assist. 

But the exchange is a microcosm of the Wizards' culture. They believe they traded away the last piece of  what had been a dysfunctional locker room when Jordan Crawford was sent to the Boston Celtics in February.  

Webster finished with seven points, breaking his string of 10 consecutive games in double figures. Last week, Wall bypassed on a three-point shot to reach 50 points with time expiring with victory already in hand. It was a decision that made Wittman proud. 

“Martell is terrific. He’s a leader,” Beal said. “He’s just vocal, he always plays hard. When he did that, I was thanking him. That shows his IQ for the game. He saw that I made a few shots … That’s just how he is.”

Wall couldn't be happier. It showed why he has encouraged management to retain Webster, who is playing his first season in Washington on a one-year deal. Webster becomes a free agent July 1. 

“It’s very big on our team that somebody’s not selfish,” Wall said of Webster, who was among the NBA's top five three-point shooters before his injury but has slipped to ninth at 43%. “If somebody else is having a good night, we go to that guy. Martell gave up his spot to give it to Brad. That’s key for our team.”