In an otherwise dismal season, Martell Webster may be giving the Trail Blazers hope for the future.
Webster will try to build off the best game of his rookie season, and Portland looks to avoid its fifth straight loss as it meets the New Orleans Hornets.
The sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft from a Seattle high school, Webster got just his eighth start of the season and responded by scoring 17 of his career-high 24 in the first half of Portland’s 102-96 loss Friday to the Boston Celtics.
Webster also set career highs with four 3-pointers, six offensive rebounds, eight boards overall and 41 minutes played.
“Tonight was a great experience, a confidence boost,” Webster said.
In his last four games, Webster is shooting 65.5 percent from the floor (19-for-29) and 68.8 percent from behind the arc (11-for-16).
Webster also is averaging 13.0 points per game in that span. He had been averaging just 4.0 ppg before the stretch.
Apart from Webster, though, the Blazers continue to be in disarray on and off the court. Guard Sebastian Telfair will sit out the second game of a two-game league-imposed suspension for carrying a loaded gun on a flight two weeks ago.
Center Joel Pryzbilla has missed seven straight games with a knee injury. Swingman Theo Ratliff has been out for the last five games with a bad ankle and is expected to miss two more weeks.
The Trail Blazers have had two four-game and two six-game losing streaks and own the Western Conference’s worst record.
Portland, though, is expected to have newly acquired forward Brian Skinner and guard Voshon Lenard availble. Both were acquired at Thursday’s trade deadline in a four-team, nine-player swap with Sacramento, Seattle and Denver.
New Orleans kicked off a four-game road swing Saturday by splitting a home-and-home series with Utah. Rookie of the year favorite Chris Paul sank two late free throws to finish with 23 points, and P.J. Brown made a key steal in the closing seconds of the Hornets’ 100-95 win Saturday over the Jazz.
“Those free throws were huge. I was nervous. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t,” said Paul, who leads all rookies in points and assists per game.
In three games since the All-Star break ended, Paul is shooting 48.7 percent (20-for-41) from the floor and 88.8 percent (24-for-27) from the free-throw line. He also is averaging 22.6 ppg in that span.
Second-year forward Linton Johnnson, making his New Orleans debut after being acquired at the trade deadline from New Jersey, set a career-high with 17 points and added 11 rebounds. He averaged 1.2 points in nine games with the Nets this season.
“I’ve been on ice most of the year so I am just excited to get up and down the court,” Johnson said.