C-Webb, Warrior: Return Of The Prodigal No. 1
Will the Chris Webber-Don Nelson reunion be more impactful than the Shaq-Penny reunion? That was my first question when I heard that C-Webb was coming back to the league and re-signing with the Golden State Warriors.
After Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant joined forces in L.A. again after Jackson's tell-all book - and became best buds! - and Shaq and Penny reunited, I realized that anything can happen in this league. So this Webber signing is far from shocking.
P.J. Carlisemo can reach out to Latrell Sprewell and see if he'd like to mentor Kevin Durant, or Larry Brown might say that he wants to coach Stephon Marbury again, and I don't know if my eyebrows would move much. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.
But on the surface, this looks like an absolutely terrible idea. Under the surface, this looks even worse.
I'll mention their rocky history later, but let's look at the present.
The Warriors like to run. Webber can't run. The Warriors play at a breakneck pace. Webber plays at an afternoon picnic pace.
About the only area this makes sense is on defense. Webber can't play it. The Warriors don't play it.
Haven't we been down this road before with Webber? He signed with Detroit last January, helped spark a little run, but faded in the end. It was very telling that the Pistons never seriously attempted to sign him. They appear to have moved on quite well. And who would you rather have now? Jason Maxiell or Webber?
But what more does Webber have left? The Lakers didn't want to go all in with him after they lost Andrew Bynum, offering Webber a shot back on a 10-day contract. I realize that Nelson's reason for acquiring Webber is based primarily on what he believes Webber can give the Warriors in halfcourt sets. He's still an intelligent player with great hands. He's a great passer. And, he should be able to make great decisions in the high post.
Nelson hasn't been impressed with what Al Harrington and Andris Biedrins have given him - although Biedrins had 26 rebounds the other night against the Knicks. But those guys seem to be better fits for Nellie Ball. I don't know where Webber fits anywhere anymore.
Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis and Matt Barnes reportedly pushed Nelson to bring back the prodigal No. 1. But this isn't the same Webber who had his last bit of real success in Northern California as a member of the Sacramento Kings. This certainly isn't that fresh-faced 20-year-old whom the Warriors acquired in a draft-day deal with Orlando in 1993 (for the aforementioned Penny Hardaway).
Webber and Nelson feuded the only season they spent together in Golden State in 1993-94 (During one game that season, Webber reportedly begged Nelson to "Treat me like a man!").
Citing Nelson's abrasive coaching style, Webber forced a trade to Washington for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round picks (one of the few times the Bullets actually ended up on the positive side of a lopsided deal; a move that was negated four years later when they traded Webber to Sacramento for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe). Nelson was fired shortly thereafter, before returning last season to end the Curse of Webber and lead the Warriors back to the playoffs - and the greatest upset in NBA history over the Dallas Mavericks.
It wasn't all bad for Webber in Oakland. He won rookie of the year, led the Warriors to the playoffs and had one of the greatest dunks of the past 15 years when he posterized Charles Barkley with that little behind-the-back move. That was before age and microfracture surgery had him moving around like his sneakers were made of cement.
Webber and Nelson have both said that the beef was squashed years ago. Webber said he was over it the moment he arrived in Washington. Nelson gave him the starting nod at the 2002 all-star game when he was coach of the Dallas Mavericks.
"I've learned over the years," Nelson told reporters in Oakland this week. "I've softened a bit through some of the experiences I've had. I look back at the time when Chris and I were here early in our careers. We were both pretty stubborn and I was maybe too tough and he was too young to see the positives I was trying to bring to the table. I've learned and I think he has, too. Hey, I'm an old man and he's an old player."
This move won't give Webber the title he's always desired, but it might help Nelson to fully correct a situation that ended so poorly his first time in Golden State. It's like Nellie's own NBA Bucket List:
1) Make Warriors relevant again. 2) Make things right with Webber. 3) Smoke a few more stogies. 4) Knock back a few more brews.
Now matter how it ends, it should work out better than that Shaq-Penny reunion. That one is already over, although nobody seemed to even notice - or care.
UPDATE: An interesting Q&A with Chris Webber.
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