Kings' expectations for Webber have familiar ring

On The NBA

May 17, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

From Sacramento Kings vice president Geoff Petrie came words of genuine excitement. Sure, he had just traded six-time All-Star guard Mitch Richmond, but in return from the Washington Wizards he received 6-foot-10 power forward Chris Webber.

"In Chris Webber, we have acquired one of the NBA's impact players, and he is 25 years old," Petrie said. "It's always difficult to trade a player of Mitch Richmond's caliber, but with Chris we acquire a young player we can build our team around."

Sound familiar? Don Nelson was excited when the Golden State Warriors drafted Webber with the first pick in 1993. And the then Washington Bullets were equally excited in 1994 when they traded Tom Gugliotta and three No. 1 draft picks to Golden State for Webber.

Is being traded three times in five years a time for reflection? You bet it is for Webber. In being exiled to a small-market franchise, he must now attempt to prove he is one of the top power forwards in the NBA, or he risks being remembered as another Derrick Coleman, a player who never lived up to his immense talent.

The important thing for Webber is to simply concentrate on being a better basketball player. He has averaged nearly a double double for his career (20.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 51.2 percent career shooting), a clear sign of his athletic ability. But while the truly great players have a go-to shot in crunch time, it's hard to know what Webber will do. At times in big situations, he'll take a long jumper; at other times, he'll attempt an off-balance half-hook in the lane.

If Webber works on that aspect of his game -- and learns to curtail his off-the-court troubles -- he'll be an All-Star for years to come and maybe shake the negative labels that have followed him.

So, who did the trade help most? A lot of the criticism coming from the fans of the Wizards is that the team dealt a young star for two aging veterans.

Sure, Richmond is 32. But he gives the Wizards an element the team has lacked for years -- a player who can create his own shot. Richmond can beat opponents from the outside or off the dribble. That's a dimension Washington has not had in the four years with Webber and Juwan Howard.

The bottom line is that the combination of Webber and Howard did not work. Howard was playing out of position at small forward, and his inability to shoot from long range (he was 0-for-2 from three-point range last season) or beat his man off the dribble was a hindrance at that position. Now he returns to his natural spot at power forward, where the team will be able to better use his post-up game.

Richmond, as expected, is happy to leave Sacramento. He just has one wish in coming to Washington.

"I'm looking forward to playing with Rod Strickland," Richmond said. "I just hope he'll be there."

That's the next big move for Washington. If the team can sign Strickland, who becomes a free agent this summer, the Wizards should return next season to where they expected to be every year since 1994 when they acquired Webber and signed Howard: in the playoffs.

Around the league

Now that the Charlotte Hornets have been eliminated from the playoffs, look for the team to trade forward Anthony Mason. The power forward feuded with coach Dave Cowens throughout the year, and the two had to be separated during the conference semifinal series against the Chicago Bulls. Mason is owed $14.7 million over the next three years.

The Hornets may not be eager to re-sign free agent center Matt Geiger, who did not play in Game 5 of the series against Chicago. Geiger was criticized by Cowens for sitting out most of the first-round series against Atlanta with a pulled hamstring.

"It's a mystery to me, too," Geiger said of not playing.

The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to have four players named to the All-Rookie team. Point guard Brevin Knight and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas were first-team picks, and guard Derek Anderson and forward Cedric Henderson were second-team picks.

Even though George Karl is one of just three coaches in NBA history to put together six straight seasons of at least 55 wins (Pat Riley and Red Auerbach are the others), there's a big question whether he will return to Seattle. His contract expires at the end of June, and Karl is seeking at least $5 million per season -- a figure the Sonics are hesitant to match.

It seems Bulls forward Dennis Rodman will have to eat his words about Indiana Pacers coach Larry Bird, who was last week named Coach of the Year. Early in the season, Rodman, asked about Bird, replied: "He'll be a failure. He was overrated as a player and he'll be overrated as a coach."

In the 13 years of the lottery, the worst team in the league has gotten the top pick just twice (the Los Angeles Clippers in 1988 and the New Jersey Nets in 1990).

Quotable

"That's why we call him Mark Fuhrman. He's always locking people up."

-- Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Van Exel on the defense played by teammate Eddie Jones.

Chances are ...

The teams with number of chances out of 1,000 in parentheses for getting the top pick in today's draft lottery to be held about 4: 30 p.m.:

1. Denver (250)

2. Toronto (200)

3. L.A. Clippers (157)

4. a-Golden State (105)

5. b-Vancouver (104)

6. Dallas (64)

7. Sacramento (44)

8. Philadelphia (29)

9. c-Milwaukee (15)

10. Boston (14)

11. d-Detroit (7)

12. e-Orlando (6)

13. f-Washington (5)

KEY: a-Pick might be conveyed to Orlando or Utah; b-Vancouver has option to convey pick to Detroit. If Detroit receives pick, it may be conveyed to Philadelphia; c-Pick may be conveyed to Denver; d-Detroit might have option to convey pick to Philadelphia; e-Pick may be conveyed to Golden State or Utah; f-Pick will be conveyed to Golden State, Orlando or Utah.

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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