The optimism that the Wizards had for Martell Webster is waning, and his right hip strain officially is a cause of concern as he didn't join them for their second consecutive preseason road trip Tuesday. And for Webster, a major financial incentive is on the verge of dissipating as a result.
For the fourth and final year of his four-year, $22 million contract to kick in as a full guarantee, which will be the 2016-17 season, Webster has to play a total of 180 regular-season games in the first three years, CSNmidatlantic.com reported at the time of the signing. If not, the final year will be a partial guarantee of just more than $2 million, CSNmidatlantic.com also has confirmed this week, which is less than 50% of the $5.9 million he could earn.
Webster played 78 and 32 games in the first two years of the deal so he'd have to play 70 of 82 games this season, an unrealistic expectation given the Wizards' depth at forward and his current health status. He has to be able to practice fully without a setback before he can play in an actual game, and as Webster continues to get his hip re-evaluated it's safe to say that he won't meet that threshold.
"It's always a concern when you're out the amount of time he's missed," coach Randy Wittman said last week, before the Wizards played the Philadelphia 76ers. "The main thing is getting him healthy so we'll continue to work on that."
Webster will have missed all seven preseason games. He was expected to play more at the "stretch" power forward position and missed a chance to prove in training camp that he has rebounded from three back surgeries.
Webster averaged a career-best 11.4 points and played in 76 games in 2012-13, his first season in Washington where he signed as a free agent. He played so well off of John Wall, it was a no-brainer to keep him but the injuries that have long derailed his career mounted again.
After the 2013-14 season, he had his third back surgery and didn't return to action until January 2015.
With Jared Dudley (back surgery) and Alan Anderson (left ankle surgery) being out all of training camp, Webster had a window to showcase himself. He'd lost 20 pounds to lessen the load on his joints. But because of the pain in his hip, similar but not the same as the injury that Otto Porter had as a rookie, he can't participate in any contact drills.
If Webster is a scratch after the 13th game of this season, Nov. 27 at the Boston Celtics, his contract status becomes official. The Wizards will have the option to buy out the balance at a fraction of his salary to clear his roster spot in the summer of 2016.
The only players who'll have fully guaranteed deals: Wall, Porter, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre. If Bradley Beal can work out an extension going into the final year of his rookie deal before Nov. 1, he'll be guaranteed, too.
The Wizards will have options on Drew Gooden, DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries.