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Webster struggles to step up his game

Second-year Blazer says he needs to be a more aggressive player
by: Sam Forencich, Blazer Martell Webster had a poor final game in the Las Vegas Summer League, but he did score 29 points in the opener against Houston.

LAS VEGAS - This wasn't the way Martell Webster envisioned finishing his stint at the Las Vegas Summer League. The Trail Blazers' 6-7 shooting guard was 1-for-11 from the field Wednesday, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range, while contributing three points, one rebound and one assist in 37 minutes of a 91-82 loss to Phoenix.

An NBA scout who watched the game shook his head when asked for an evaluation.

'I'm disappointed,' said the scout, who asked to remain unidentified. 'Everyone knows his strength is in his shooting ability. He's always going to have that going for him. But for him to become a good player, he's going to have to learn to do other things. Summer league is the time to do that, and I don't see him making an attempt to do it.

'For him to be a good NBA player, he's going to have to score points. In a game like today, when he's not getting good looks and isn't shooting the ball well, he has to put the ball on the floor to get to the free-throw line. Today, he was a nonfactor. In a game like that, he should be a dominant player. That's not to say he can't reach that. Maybe he just hasn't figured it out yet.'

Webster has it figured out. At least, his diagnosis is eerily similar to that of the scout's.

'A horrible game for me,' he says. 'Some days your shot's just not falling. Today was one of those days for me.

'My goal coming in (to summer league) was to get to the line a lot more. Today (defenders) were playing off me, so the coaches told me to shoot my shot. I'll tell you, when I get back to Portland, first thing, I'm going to the gym and working on being aggressive and getting to the rim.'

Summer league wasn't a total washout for Webster, the sixth pick in the 2005 draft and a player who won't turn 20 until December. He had two big games, scoring 29 points in the opener against Houston and hitting 7 of 12 shots in a 19-point outing against Washington. He averaged 15.2 points in five games, shooting .406 from the field.

'Martell did what we expected,' assistant coach Dean Demopoulos says. 'When you are in the process of learning, you have some highs and some lows. He has been good at times and not so good at others.'

In what areas do Portland coaches seek improvement from Webster's game?

'He's so young, he has to work on everything,' Demopoulos said.

'Specifically, he has to home in on the defensive end of the floor and increase his ability to handle the ball to become a player who can be effective. But it's going to take time,' he said. 'Look at the guards in this league who came out of high school, other than LeBron James. Kobe (Bryant) even took four or five years. We have to be patient. But more importantly, Martell has to be patient.'

That's part of Webster's mantra at this point in his career.

'Dean told me players want to start building their house from the top,' Webster says. 'You can't do that. You have to start from the bottom up. Lay your bricks out one by one until your house is complete. That's what I'm doing. I'm being patient. I'm listening. I'm taking everything in.'

Webster says he will spend most of the rest of the summer in Portland, training and working on his game. He has no plans for a vacation.

'I can't,' he says. 'I have a goal in life, and I'm working hard to get there. I'll take a vacation after I retire.'

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