Webber Isn't The Missing Piece
So, Chris Webber is done in Philadelphia. The 76ers officially bought him out yesterday and about a handful of teams, including his hometown Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and possibly the Orlando Magic are reportedly clamoring for his services. The Pistons are said to be the leaders of the pack and the Spurs are arguably his most ideal destination. But let me offer a bit of caution to any team thinking that Webber will be the missing link to a championship - he won't.
That doesn't mean that Webber won't win a championship with the team he joins, it's just that he won't be the person to put them over the hump. This isn't Rasheed Wallace joining the Pistons in 2004 or Clyde Drexler joining the Houston Rockets in 1995. This is a 34-year-old (that will be his age on March 1) forward on his last legs - or is that leg - trying to finish his career with the ring that eluded him at Michigan and throughout his time in the NBA. Webber has the hunger but little else, which might be enough.
During media day last September, Webber spoke of someone who has been anguishing through life in pursuit of that one piece of jewelry. He compared his NBA career to asking someone to marry him 13 times and hearing "No" 13 times. "Like I tell everybody all the time, me and Kevin Garnett talk all the time," Webber said then. "We can say all we want, but Mark Madsen's the man. He has the championship. He's dancing on stage with Shaq. At the end of the day, to me, it's about the ring. That's what I want."
Webber got to the NCAA championship game twice at Michigan and he had his best opportunity for an NBA crown in Sacramento, possibly coming within a Robert Horry three-pointer (Webber probably still replays the image of him futily chasing down Horry) or maybe a Peja Stojakovic airball of getting to the Finals in 2002. But his days of being the first, second or even third option of an offense are over. Webber may still want to start and produce 20 points and 10 rebounds, but while he is just one year removed from those type of numbers, he may should truly take the Madsen approach and seriously ride some coattails. Really. He was fighting for minutes on the worst team in the East.
When the 76ers traded for him in February 2005, I thought he could really make a difference; that he'd be the one player to coexist Allen Iverson. Iverson even thought he was the missing piece. When Webber made his debut as a Sixer, Iverson ran up to him and said, "Let's make history." Now Iverson and Webber are history in Philadelphia, which has nothing to show for the union but one swift five-game playoff appearance and two of the most unceremonious exits any franchise has ever shown two superstar players.
It really is a sad day in Philadelphia. I was there on Tuesday and I swear it was one of the most miserable experiences I've ever had watching a game - and I covered the Hawks! The Wachovia Center was absolutely dead and it will remain awful until they get a nice pick in the draft this summer (hopefully for the sake of Sixers fans, Greg Oden). Philadelphia will surely tank with Webber gone, but not because he's gone (Iverson gets all the credit there).
Webber used to be able to leave a huge hole and a hex on his former teams. What ever happened to Michigan basketball? The Golden State Warriors have yet to recover from his exile more than 12 years ago. It took the Washington Wizards seven years to recover from dealing him. The Sacramento Kings avoided the Curse of Webber and haven't missed the playoffs since he left. Now Webber appears to haunt himself.
Before I end this, let me just say that I've always rooted for Webber. I remember when I was a high school freshman and everybody on my basketball team loved the Fab Five. We wanted to wear those long, baggy shorts, the black shoes. We already wore gold home jerseys and some guys went as far as shaving their heads bald - to be like Webber, not Jordan (Unfortunately, I held onto a high-top fade at the time. Don't ask why). I digress. The point here is that I don't want to kill Webber's dreams, but he might want to take his time making a decision here. This is really his last shot.
"I'm looking for the movie ending," Webber said last September. He won't get it unless he decides to be Cuba Gooding instead of Denzel Washington.
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