Martell Webster has yet to log a minute for the Washington Wizards this season. Unfortunately, it looks like he won't get the chance to change that.
After spending nearly two months trying to play through the pain of a partially torn labrum in his right hip, the 28-year-old forward will undergo surgery Friday to repair the tear, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. (For more specifics on hip labrum tears and how they impact NBA players, check out Jeff Stotts' work over at In Street Clothes.)
Just like Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, who recently made the same choice to go under the knife, the procedure is expected to sideline Webster for four to six months, likely rendering him unavailable for the remainder of the 2015-16 NBA season and casting his future with the Wizards in doubt. From Castillo:
“We tried everything else and I just wasn’t getting the results that I wanted,” Webster said. “So I wanted to go out and get it taken care of rather than playing this season in some discomfort and then wait until the offseason to get it taken care of and then rehab the whole offseason and then try to find a rhythm come training camp. I’d rather take care of it now.”
Though it is another discouraging turn in a career that was marred by three back surgeries in four years, Webster insisted the procedure will not end his basketball career and said he could return in time for the playoffs.
“Hell no,” Webster said when asked if it could be a career-ending operation. “I hope not. Doc said 85 percent chance [of returning]. I’ll take that.”
The surgery, however, will cost him some money. The four-year, $22 million deal Webster signed in July 2013 — after averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game on a one-year bargain basement contract with the Wizards — stipulated that he had to play in 180 games over the first three seasons of the contract for the final year to be fully guaranteed. Webster needed to play in 70 games this season to reach the number. As a result, Wizards are now slated to pay Webster $2.5 million next season instead of $5.7 million.
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That reduced guarantee increases the likelihood that Webster — whose role has decreased in each of the last three seasons due to injuries, declining play when healthy and the presence of Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce and Otto Porter — won't be a member of the Wizards come next season, when Washington hopes to be featuring a new small forward, according to Jake Whitacre of Bullets Forever:
It would be very, very surprising to see him back next season. Webster's contract is only partially guaranteed for $2.5 million next season. The only ways Webster could guarantee he gets the full $5.7 million is if he plays 70 games this season, which clearly isn't happening, or if he's still on the roster next season. Since the Wizards need all the cap space they can get this summer, it makes far more sense to take the $2.5 million hit than roll the dice that he's worth closer [to] $5.7 million next season.
Despite the probability that Webster's time in Washington has come to a close, the Wizards will apparently elect to keep him on the roster to gain some immediate flexibility should they need it, according to J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com:
As a result, the Wizards will file for a Disabled Player Exception with the NBA which gives them the option of acquiring a 15th player at half of his $5.5 million salary slot. They also can acquire a player via trade but he'd have to be in the final year of his contract. [...]
To qualify for DPE, the Wizards have to file a request with the league before Jan. 15 and it requires a league-chosen doctor to evaluate him. Webster's injury is expected to take 9-10 months of recovery which sets him back for training camp next year if he tries to continue to play.
In the here and now, Webster's injury doesn't seem to change very much for the Wizards, who have opened up 5-4 despite dealing with early-season injuries to Bradley Beal (left shoulder), Alan Anderson (left ankle) and Webster, fielding a defense that enters Wednesday's play ranked 19th among 30 NBA teams in points allowed per possession after finishing in the top 10 for the past two seasons, and experiencing some internal static over questions of toughness, rebounding and communication. With Porter's ascent to the starting lineup complete, the combination of veteran Jared Dudley and rookie Kelly Oubre in the fold behind him, and Anderson likely to play a significant role when he returns from ankle surgery, Webster's contributions seemed likely to be minimal anyway.
In the broader scheme, though, his relegation to the training table represents something of a sad and ignominious conclusion to what briefly looked like a pretty good story: that of the preps-to-pro talent, picked sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2005, whose career never quite panned out due to an array of injuries — an irregular heartbeat scare in April 2007, a broken right foot in October 2008, back surgeries in October 2010 and December 2011 — but who finally found his calling as a short-corner sniper who both helped reveal and benefited from John Wall's preternatural skill for creating open 3-point shots, and developing into a veteran leader for a team on the rise. Here's hoping that the doctors are right about that 85 percent chance of returning to the court; it'd be nice to see Webster get another crack at proving his shooting and leadership can help a club before all's said and done.
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