PORTLAND — After his pregame workout, Washington Wizards forward Martell Webster signed memorabilia through the rails of the Rose Garden and spent several minutes hugging and visiting old friends.
Webster was back home. Not just because he started his career in Portland — drafted right out of a Seattle prep school in 2005 — but Webster still keeps a residence in the area and his homecoming was sweetened by the fans who lined up for his autograph.
“It’s electrifying. It’s always great to come (back here),” Webster said. “The one thing about these fans at the Rose Garden, they’re always going to stand behind their team. By far, these are some of the greatest fans. Loyal fans here (who have) stuck through it when things were really rough here. Now, I feel like they’ve been rewarded. They’re always a great, electrifying crowd.”
Leonard back in action
Rookie Meyers Leonard stripped off his warm-ups and walked onto the Rose Garden court for the first time since injuring his right ankle on Dec. 29.
Leonard subbed in to the game at the 7:35 mark, relieving starting center J.J. Hickson and receiving rousing applause from a fan base that has missed his athleticism around the rim. It didn’t take long for Leonard to reward their adoration — not with one of his thunderous throwdowns, but with a baby hook from the low post.
However, Leonard’s return was hit and miss.He started the game making three consecutive shots but also committed three fouls through just 8 minutes and 36 seconds on the floor through the first half. Leonard finished with six points, four rebounds and four fouls.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Blazers featured both the Star Spangled Banner and the African American National Anthem.
Joseph Eli Hardy sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” representing only the second time this season that two separate anthems have been preformed. On Dec. 10, the Blazers also presented a singer to belt out “O Canada” before the team hosted the Toronto Raptors.
The Blazers are now 5-3 in games played on MLK Day.