Forward ready to return from his latest injury

Trevor Booker couldn't help himself.

Jan. 3 was the first time all season the Wizards had 15 players dressed for practice. Booker, who has been out since Nov. 19 with a strained right patella tendon, was cleared only for what is known as "dummy" work, drills with no defenders. But he was feeling pretty good.

"I did some contact," Booker said afterward with a satisfied smile. "I wasn't supposed to, but I snuck in while he wasn't looking."

Up next
Hawks at Wizards
When » Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center

It's not clear whether Booker was referring to Wizards coach Randy Wittman or trainer Eric Waters. But there's no doubt that the third-year forward's insistence on getting on the court is part of why he has been on the shelf for most of the season. It could have been the whole season; he guessed he played through the pain for nine games -- exactly the number the Wizards (5-28) had completed when he was sidelined.

"It was a slight tear," Booker said. "I think I made it worse by playing on it, so I had to sit out and just let it heal."

Booker, 25, expects to make his return to the court against Atlanta on Saturday alongside John Wall, who is also supposed to make his season debut. How long Booker can stay healthy is increasingly in question.

"His time in the league has been marred by a lot of injuries," Wittman said. "It's hard, though. 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. I think maybe, hopefully, he's learned some lessons through what he's gone through."

Booker's latest injury wasn't his first this season. He missed the first half of preseason with a left hamstring strain. Both of his first two NBA seasons also ended prematurely. Plantar fasciitis in his left foot ended things after he had averaged 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 50 games last year. A broken bone in his right foot did the same after 65 games as a rookie.

Even when he signed with Bnei Hasharon Israel during the lockout in 2011, the trip ended prematurely when he suffered a thigh injury in a preseason scrimmage that set him back when the NBA season did start.

"It's definitely tough," Booker said last week. "I went from never being injured in college, in high school, to coming here and being injured in my first couple years, so it's different for me. But I'm glad to be back on the court now."

Not surprisingly, while Wall's return this weekend isn't quite set in stone, Booker is certain.

"I'm ready," Booker said Thursday. "I'm back to my usual self, dunking on people, scoring 30. That's what I do. Sometimes you have be more patient. You can injure yourself even more, but I think I'm ready to go."