Webster immediately becomes vocal presence with Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Veteran counted on for shooting off bench

It didn't take long for Martell Webster to show his understanding of the Wizards' team dynamics.

A late summer free agency signing, Webster was asked on the second day of training camp who was tops on his new squad at so-called verbal intimidation. It wasn't exactly a trick question, but his answer was the correct one.

"We're trying to train some guys," Webster said. "But [assistant coach] Sam Cassell is still the best talker."

Webster also stepped up right away when short-handed Washington needed a boost in its preseason opener at Charlotte on Sunday. Scoring 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter -- tying rookie Bradley Beal for the team high -- Webster helped cut a double-digit lead to six before an eventual 100-88 defeat.

It was a solid submission from a position on the wing at which Washington has long been desperate for consistent production. The Wizards essentially conceded the spot in the lineup last year, with rookie Chris Singleton making 51 starts and nightly contesting some of the league's most elite scorers.

Trevor Ariza, 27, who was acquired from New Orleans, won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and averaged 14.9 points for Houston the following season. He started against the Bobcats and is expected to have that role when the Wizards start the regular season.

But Webster also has a case to make. At 25 years old, on many teams he would be pegged as a youngster. Instead, Webster is already a seven-year veteran, picked sixth overall by Portland in the same draft in which the Wizards chose Andray Blatche with the 49th selection. Webster's career also has had fits and starts, but his most recent issues have been health-related, including a pair of back surgeries with Minnesota, which waived him after two seasons this summer.

"My body feels better than it has in five years," said Webster, who averaged a career-high 10.7 points with the Blazers in 2007-08 and played 82 games in 2009-10. "I can do the things I was able to do when I first got into the league. My explosiveness, my athleticism, I feel like it's back, and that's important. ... This is a legit chance to show what I can do."

Webster is also a career 37.4 percent shooter from 3-point range. But his outspokenness has stood out already with Washington, where he has tried to help teammates recognize the mental part of preseason preparation. Similar to coach Randy Wittman, he was most disappointed about the 46 free throw attempts the Wizards allowed in Charlotte.

"We've got to do a better job of moving our feet," Wittman said.

Webster had a suggestion for how to do that when they return to work for a final day at George Mason on Tuesday after Monday's day off.

"I think we should tie our hands behind our backs and work on defense," Webster said. "Defense all day because we've played terrible defense in training camp. You can't put your hands on offensive players. We have to work on defense and communication."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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