- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2015

Debate followed what Martell Webster felt was his win. Under discussion was if his pump fake could be categorized as a “fly by” fake.

Long after practice is officially over, a group of Wizards has a 3-point shooting contest. On the last shot, the player is required to provide an exaggerated pump fake that would cause a defender to jump and fly by. Webster went with a standard pump fake before hitting his final shot, completing the work around the arc before any other player. His teammates, particularly Rasual Butler, who usually wins, cried foul.

Webster is pleased to be smiling because of basketball and meaningless 3-point contests again. He had his third career back surgery in the offseason, pushing back his 2014-15 debut to Dec. 30. He’s still not in sync.

“I still got a little bit of ways to go,” Webster said. “Rhythm and timing (are) a little bit off.”

His return creates a pileup at small forward and shooting guard for the Wizards. Between Webster, Paul Pierce, Otto Porter, Rasual Butler and Bradley Beal, coach Randy Wittman has multiple options, which includes resting Pierce. Wittman opted for that Wednesday night when the Wizards beat the hapless New York Knicks in their first game back from a five-game road trip. Pierce sat on the bench in a suit and wore Cazal glasses, which are Mars Blackmon approved eyewear.

Last week, Porter was on the bench. He did not play Jan. 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder a game after playing just eight minutes against the Dallas Mavericks. Webster played 14 minutes against the Mavericks. He played five more against the Thunder. Plus, Butler played 30 minutes against Oklahoma City. Pierce was on the floor for 20 minutes. Porter was out of the mix.

Losing his minutes to Webster’s return, at least temporarily, was not a surprise. Porter saw across-the-board reductions in December after a solid November start. Among the regulars in the Wizards’ rotation, Porter has the second-worst player efficiency rating. Only center Kevin Seraphin has a lower mark.

The key for Porter, according to Wittman, remains his level of aggression. When he’s aggressive, things go well. When he’s not, that’s the inert stage that Wittman says turns players into just “an advancement of the ball.” When it touches them, they just get rid of it and move on.

“I like to see him aggressive because he is a smart player,” Wittman said. “He has good instincts. He can create things for other players. Then, I think that carries over to the other end of the floor for him. He’s a good rebounder. He’s got to continue to work from an individual standpoint from guys who try to take him off the dribble. That’s part of now playing and you pick those things up.”

Legitimate caveats when assessing Porter remain. He’s just 21 years old. He’s only played 70 career games in his season-plus since being drafted third overall out of Georgetown.

As Porter figures things out, Webster will continue to feel his way. Wednesday night, he took a late charge from Knicks forward Travis Wear. Guilt from making a bad pass that led to the turnover spurred Webster to get back and be in position to take the charge, which knocked him solidly to the ground and onto his bad back. A day later, he reconsidered that strategy. Webster is just 28 years old, but anticipates being near the end of his career because of all the back problems.

“I think I’m always cognizant that I’m just now getting back and this is my third back surgery,” Webster said. “Last night, I was definitely, really thinking about whether or not to take that charge. After I took it, I thought, ‘Man, I probably shouldn’t have taken that one.’

“I was OK. But, those types of things are always running through my mind. It’s one of those things when you start to build the muscle memory and get a little bit more repetition, then you don’t think about it.”

Pierce practiced Thursday and should be ready to play Friday night against one of the Wizards’ few rivals, the hearty Chicago Bulls. His return plus Webster’s availability will leave Wittman with options. It’s better than the other way around and something Porter will need to aggressively deal with.

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