Wessel: Wolves castoff Martell Webster now among NBA's best shooters
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNESOTA -- It wasn't a ceremonious return by any means. Martell Webster was introduced last for the Washington Wizards Wednesday and fans didn't even seem to notice. No boos, no cheers. Just people finding their seats.
The indifference likely stems from the last two years being ones the fans would like to forget. The Wolves won just 44 games and Webster missed 55 games. But now in a Wizards uniform after the Wolves paid $600,000 to buy out of his contract, Webster is playing the best basketball of his career.
"I feel great, I feel tremendous," Webster said. "I finally got my back healthy. It was very discouraging times for me, but I feel great."
In a season where the Wolves are shooting a league-worst (by far) 29.7% from three-point range, Webster is shooting 45% from behind the arc, just percentage points behind Kyle Korver for the best mark in the league. J.J. Barea leads the Wolves with 34% from 3-point land. In fact, only three Wolves are shooting better from the field than Webster is from distance.
"He is a good player and he having a very good year for them," coach Rick Adelman said. "He is shooting in the (40 percents) from three. He still shot 35 (percent) last year which would be historic for us (this year)."
But this isn't another volume in the Fire Kahn Manifesto. Instead, it is a feel good story for a guy you couldn't help but feel bad for during his two years in Minnesota. He underwent painful back surgery in consecutive off-seasons in Minnesota and it was fair to wonder if he'd ever be a productive NBA player again.
When he would play in Minnesota, it was through pain. His body hurt from constant rehab. His pride hurt from all the losing. After games he looked more like Mr. Burns walking around the locker room than he did a former No. 6 overall pick. By season's end, he looked like a man defeated, unsure what was next.
But despite the trying times, Webster still thought there was a chance the Wolves would pick up his $5.7 million option. He went to Florida to train and Kahn came down to watch him workout. Kahn told him they were definitely considering keeping him around and that they'd be in touch. But Webster's phone never rang and he found out he was done in Minnesota while watching TV.
"It just would have been more respectful if I would have gotten a phone call (from Kahn) instead of seeing it on the ESPN ticker," Webster said. "That is just me. Maybe that is the way it is done, but I think it would have been a bit more tasteful if I would have gotten a phone call."
There wasn't exactly a bidding war for his services and he signed for the veteran's minimum with the Wizards -- the second worst team in basketball a year before. He played his way into the starting lineup by December and has been there ever since, starting 43 games for former Wolves head coach Randy Wittman.
Webster has no ill-wills towards the team even after being unceremoniously dumped. He snuck down to the practice facility during shootaround to see his old teammates and coaches. Just prior to tip, Webster went over to owner Glen Taylor and whispered something in his ear before hugging both him and his wife.
"(Taylor) is a great man," Webster said. "I appreciate him giving the opportunity to come here and play and giving me a chance. I wish it would have been a better outcome."
So there was no big hoopla or applause break for Webster upon return to Target Center, and that was fine with him. He is just happy to be back and playing well after painful rehabs and the gut-punch that comes along with finding out you've been let go on ESPN.
"I did this for my friends and my family," he said. "They believed in me and supported me, especially through the second back surgery and this past offseason. It was brutal. It was tedious, but in the end it was all worth it."