Bolstered by their win over Oklahoma City on Monday and the return of several players from injury, the Wizards practices this week have been, well, let's call them spirited.
"We're out there competing, talking junk," said Trevor Booker, one of those formally walking wounded. "That's the practices I like. That's what we're doing."
Simply practicing is a boon for the 6-foot-8 forward, who's had to cool his heels for the past 24 games since straining his right knee on Nov. 19 against Indiana while attempting a layup. Along with fellow third-year player John Wall, Booker began practicing last week. Barring any pain issues, he's set for a return Saturday against Atlanta.
"I'm ready, back to my usual self, dunking on people, scoring 30. That's what I do," cracked the high-energy forward following Thursday's practice. Booker has actually never reached the 30-point level in his professional career, though he can fill the stat sheet in several ways.
What the former Clemson product does is run the court, relentlessly attack the basket and make a high percentage of his largely interior shots. The only player in ACC history with 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 blocks, 200 assists and 100 steals yanked down a career-high 17 rebounds last season against the Lakers and scored a personal best 26 points against Toronto during his rookie season.
Even with the additions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, Booker entered this season high in the Wizards frontcourt rotation, typically the first forward off the bench. However, even before the injury became truly problematic, the usual pop in Booker's game wasn't there. After making well over half of his attempts during his first two seasons in the league, Booker was shooting only 45 percent during the opening nine games this campaign. He acknowledged playing in pain, no doubt in part because injuries have already wiped out several games during his young career.
Booker missed the final 11 games of rookie season with a broken bone in his right foot and 16 games in 2011-12 primarily for plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"His time in the league has been marred by a lot of injuries," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "It's hard for guys that want to be on the floor to say I feel good when maybe you don't and come back too early. Hopefully, he's learned some lessons through what he's gone through. If it takes a little bit of extra time to heal up then to have something nag you the whole year long and eventually keep you out as long as its kept him out."
For his part, Booker sounds like a player who has learned his playing through pain lesson.
"Sometimes you have to be more patient. You can hurt yourself even more. I think I'm ready now, I'm ready to go," Booker said.
Don't expect extended minutes early. Conditioning issues exist and Wittman is not about to rush his just returning players back especially with - and essentially the first time this season-, a full roster at hand. Booker must also compete with Jan Vesely, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton and perhaps Ariza for those reserve forward minutes.
On the court the Wizards are ready to go, go, go when they have possession. With a deeper roster available and open court threats Wall and Booker back practicing, Wittman's been pushing the fast break theme.
"That's what we like to do," Booker said. "I like to run. John likes to run. That's what we're doing right now."
Notes...Nene (right knee tendonitis) and Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) missed practice for the second straight day and remain questionable for Saturday's home against Atlanta. "We'll see what either of them can do tomorrow and go from there," Wittman said. "I don't want to rule one way or another anything there yet with another full day practice ahead." The pair along with Cartier Martin (hyper-extended left knee) sat out the win against the Thunder, Washington's first without Nene in the lineup this season.