In terms of health, big game is a huge deal for Wolves' Martell Webster

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2012 - 1:07 PM

The shooting guard's successful return from multiple surgeries is a reward for his patience -- and a bonus for the Wolves' backcourt.

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Martell Webster’s 21 points Saturday night were a sign that his health and his game are finally becoming solid.

Photo: Don Ryan, Associated Press

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Listen to Timberwolves guard Martell Webster speak, examine his lengthy NBA résumé or watch him stretch and rehabilitate his slowly healing body and it's so easy to forget one thing about a guy who's already midway through his seventh NBA season:

He's only 25 years old.

While Timberwolves brass searches league rosters looking to add by a March 15 trade deadline the starting shooting guard they clearly lack, is it still possible the player they seek is right in their midst?

Webster's season-high 21 points in Saturday's 122-110 victory helped the Wolves win for the first time since December 2005 in Portland, where Webster played his first five NBA seasons and where he still lives.

That performance also was another small sign that perhaps he is playing himself by the day back into good health after undergoing back surgery twice within 11 months, most recently last September.

He suggests Saturday's 7-for-10 shooting night -- with eight rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in 34-plus minutes, too -- isn't significant because of where it came.

"Not at all," he said after the Wolves ended a four-game western trip 2-2. "It's my seventh year in the league, so coming back to my old team now is not a big deal. The biggest thing was coming to Portland to see my family, my wife and my kids. It has been tough for them."

More meaningful is when it came, 19 games into another injury-delayed season that once again has tested his patience.

A year ago, Webster missed the season's first six weeks because of microdiscectomy on his spine and played only 46 games, few of them in which he looked really healthy.

This year, he underwent the same surgery in September during the NBA's labor lockout, timing that again caused him to miss the season's opening month.

He scored in double figures once in his first 13 games. After Saturday's game, he has done so four times in the past six.

"The main thing is, you can't get frustrated with the injury and expect to come back, play and just pick up right from when you were your most athletic," he said. "For me, it was a little frustrating because I knew where I should be, but I wasn't quite there."

He says conversations with a sports psychologist friend helped.

"He was telling me these things will come," Webster said. "You can't just expect them to happen the first day you get back."

The Wolves dealt the 16th pick in the 2010 draft for Webster believing he was more athletic, more gifted that the stand-still shooter he became on a Blazers team built around Brandon Roy.

They're still waiting to see exactly what he might become, his body willing.

Wolves coach Rick Adelman continues to bring him off the bench while starting point guards Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio together because he said he needs playmakers on the floor while he waits for Webster to fully regain his health and his consistency.

When Adelman has gone with one point guard in games recently, he has turned to Webster as the second guard in that backcourt, although Adelman said he hasn't changed his starting lineup all year because he prefers stability in a condensed 66-game season that affords little time for practice.

"I know he'll defend, he can shoot it, he is athletic," Adelman said. "Now we just have to see if we can get him really healthy. You can see he's getting better, getting more confident."

Webster said he has done that by remaining patient and by letting the passes and points come to him rather than seek out shots for himself, which he sometimes did when he returned to a role off the bench in late January.

"I just let the game come to me," he said after the Wolves ended a 16-game losing streak to the Blazers on Saturday. "I've just been sticking to the game plan, not hunting for shots, and it turned out well. I'm starting to get my legs back, getting my rhythm back and staying the course."

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