GM Ernie Grunfeld talks Wizards free agency moves
When Martell Webster showed up on Tuesday to watch the Wizards summer mini-camp scrimmage -- and kill time until he could sign his new contract on Wednesday - the perimeter shooter passed on discussing which other teams showed immediate interest during free agency.
During a conference call on Thursday to discuss his newly minted four-year, $22 million deal, the small forward offered some specifics on inquiring franchises.
"Yes there were. I’m pretty sure you want me to tell you. It was a couple of teams. Cleveland, Milwaukee, New Orleans, big time. New York, Clippers, Portland showed a little interest," Webster said. "There were a couple of other teams, but it’s really not that important."
It's probably true that at this point, asking for such detail is part reporting, part gossip. Yet on July 1, the Wizards, who in recent years often took their time in free agency, believed enough in possible outside interest - and their own desires - to contact Webster's agent immediately. By July 2, the two sides agreed on a deal.
"That’s the thing about free agency. Especially when a player is unrestricted, it takes one person to get a deal done, " Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld said during his press conference on Thursday. " I think you saw a premium on shooters in this free agent period. "
Minnesota signed free agent Kevin Martin for four years and 30 million after keeping Chase Budinger around for three and $16 million. Completing a sign-and-trade, the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to pay J.J. Redick $27 million over four years. Atlanta retained Kyle Korver, who posted similar stats as Webster, for $24 million over four years.
"We wanted to get a guy we felt fit in very well with what we’re trying to do locked up. I’m pretty sure there were other guys that came after [Martell]," Grunfeld said.
During the era of volume 3-point shooting teams and the trend toward small ball, players with Webster's range are becoming the rage.
Webster: "The midlevel guys, I was reading this quote that said, ‘Mediocre people are always at their best.’ I guess, that’s not to take anything away from us. I think that we’re really good, but I think that we’re undervalued. I see around the league with a lot of guys and those are the X-factor players. Those are the players that you need to get over the hump."
Clearly the Wizards concur - and why not seeing as in his first year with Washington, Webster averaged a career-best 11.4 points and finished among the league leading 3-point shooters. If locker room presence had a statistical component, his would also be among the NBA's best in that category
“We had some goals for our offseason, and one of them we said was we wanted to retain some of our players that we had, specifically Martell, and we also wanted Garrett [Temple] back," Grunfeld said. "Martell ended up being one of the best three-point shooters in the game, shot 42 percent. He was an outstanding locker room presence. He’s very versatile. He plays two positions, and he fits in well with John and Bradley and the rest of our players, so we wanted to keep him, that was a priority."
Here's a why not: injuries. Though he played 76 games last season, Webster missed 71 games the previous two years with back issues. Last season ended with an abdominal injury and one month ago he had hernia surgery.
"I understand why they would have concerns and precautions about my health," said Webster, who is rehabbing with the Wizards trainers and those out west where the Seattle currently hails. "That’s not going to be an issue. That’s not going to be an issue this year. ...they tell you get in the gym, make sure you keep your touch and get plenty of jump shots up, but I’ll probably be spending more time in the weight room with my trainer than I do on the court."