Those who have been around the team this season have often suggested that Martell Webster has been less gregarious. While he's still the team's prankster in the locker room, Webster's antics have been subdued, making you wonder about his state of mind.
Apparently, it hasn't always been great. In a recent interview (via Michael Lee of the Washington Post), Webster admitted that this season has been a "roller coaster" for him, between playing off the bench and dealing with nagging ankle injuries.
Of course, the bench thing was his call. You'll recall his public declaration in the preseason that Trevor Ariza should start, which alleviated Ariza's lingering worry about being a bench player in a contract year. Ariza's taken off with the starters, leaving Webster to have to be the top offensive thread on a second unit that's only now stabilized itself. An adjustment period was something Webster had to expect.
To some degree, perhaps Webster is being too hard on himself. He's still hitting 40 percent of his threes and posting a sizzling 60% true shooting percentage. That's really good for a role player! He's also doing a little more work coming off screens on the Wizards' Hawk sets, like so:
But even Webster admits offense isn't the problem. From Lee's story:
"You're a creature of habits, and I've had a habit of being in situations where I have to go through adversity and I adapt," Webster said. "I've been talking to a lot of my close confidants and family that understands the game, and they've been saying to me, ‘The most important thing is you can always give effort and play defense.'
"I'm a shooter, so shots are going to fluctuate, the makes and misses," he said. "But you can never have an excuse on the defensive end of the floor, and for me, it took stepping back and really reevaluating yourself and understanding where my mind-set was and too focused on offense. I can be a man and admit that."
He's right that his is an issue. Webster was decent on that end last year, but has really been a sieve this season, failing to properly contain dribble penetration and struggling with help rotations. The Wizards allow 104.6 points per 100 possessions when Webster is in and just 99.9 when he's out, according to NBA.com's stats page. Whether that's due to a lack of effort or health issues is up for question.
The challenge, of course, is sorting out the small forward situation going forward. There's no way the Wizards can have all three of Ariza, Webster and Otto Porter on the roster next season. We know Ariza's having a big year, but are Martell's relative struggles bad enough to feel uncomfortable giving him back the starting job should Ariza walk this summer?