- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

Chris Webber has agreed to swallow hard and accept the burden of $122.7 million from the Kings.

He is not especially elated about this development, despite words to the contrary from his family, adviser and ex-classmates from Country Day in Beverly Hills, Mich.

The Kings were about the seventh or eighth team on Webber's shopping list, but David Stern's economic laws made it nearly impossible for anyone to compete with the small-market bunch from Sacramento, Calif. After Webber exchanged hugs and kisses with interested parties around the NBA, he discovered that no one could stuff his pockets with as many Benjamins as the Kings.

So he is stuck with the Kings, and they are stuck with him, and hopefully, $122.7 million spread over seven seasons can ease the torment of it all.

Webber is a big-city guy who apparently misses his old pal Mark Fuhrman, believed to be the person responsible for planting marijuana in Webber's basketball shoes, gym bag and vehicle. He misses the woman from Connecticut and his good friends in blue under Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. He misses all the good times in Georgetown and Tony Cheng's neighborhood. Those were the days.

Nothing ever happens in Sacramento, except when the Kings roll over in the playoffs each spring, and it is just Webber's rotten luck to be saddled with a contract befitting a franchise player when he is not that at all. He is a No. 2 guy, a very good No. 2 guy, but he is not a guy who can carry a team in the last six minutes of a playoff game.

Webber blames the circumstances around him. The city is dull, the soul food lacking, and the Kings lack the physical toughness to compete with the Lakers, Spurs and anyone else who might elbow them.

Webber has spent the last three seasons with the Kings insisting he wants to be around teammates who stick a bayonet between clenched teeth and pounce on live grenades. This has been an incriminating desire on his part, considering Webber often likes to hang around the top of the key and avoid the rough stuff underneath the basket.

The opposition normally grants Webber the open 20-footer, because as a power forward impersonating a shooting guard, he is liable to shoot his team in the foot. He seems unable to understand that a 10-footer is a higher percentage shot than a 20-footer, perhaps because he usually has so much on his mind.

It is never simple with Webber, which shows what two years at Michigan can do for a person. He adheres to the three C's of the NBA: city, cuisine, character. In Washington, when hurt, he dabbled in medicine and showed an interest in the Department of Transportation. In his view, the franchise could not win as long as it traveled by horse-and-buggy.

As Webber put it back then, he was introspective, retrospective and extraterrestrial-spective.

Give Webber credit. He finally led a team past the first round of the playoffs last season, and no one can take that away from him, not even Fuhrman.

Webber's teams, going back to his rookie season with out-of-touch Don Nelson, are 7-17 in the playoffs after eight seasons. That comes out to about $17.5 million a playoff victory.

Nelson, of course, is no longer out of touch in Dallas, and Webber's two prior places of employment, Golden State and Washington, are still trying to clean up his messes.

At least Webber still has the ugly face in his repertoire, often dispensed after an early dunk shot during a relatively meaningless game in January. Webber is a very bad man in January, and he actually is a pretty bad man in February and March, as long as the Kings have a 10-point lead late in a game.

It's not going to be easy for Webber. Expectations are bound to increase with the $122.7 million. Who knows? The team's supporters just might expect Webber to lead the Kings to the conference finals, unreasonable as that may be.

Webber is averaging .875 playoff victories a season in his career. That means, to advance to the conference finals, Webber and the Kings would have to win seven playoff games, or double his eight-season total.

That's tough, real tough, not counting the $122.7 million.

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