- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

Chris Webber returned to the scene of his nonsense last night.

The occasion was the Wizards-Kings game, won by the Wizards 108-101 after the home team fashioned a breathtaking run late in the third quarter.

The outcome left the Wizards with a 26-21 record and Webber with a blank expression on his face by the end. It was too sweet.

Webber, who possibly is planning to grow up one of these decades, finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in 42 minutes. He performed reasonably enough. This is the regular season, after all, and Webber never has had a problem in the little games, just the big ones.

As if to show he has not come to terms with his inner adolescence yet, Webber flashed his bad-man pose after dunking the ball early in the first quarter.

It was beautiful, perfect.

He postures. His team loses.

Sound familiar?

Webber is, as always, the bad man from Detroit Country Day, although he is a bad man with footnotes. He is only a bad man in certain months of the year. In other months, he is a victim of Don Nelson, Wes Unseld, less gifted teammates, law-enforcement types and the woman from Connecticut. He is a bad man with lots of baggage, and remember to be careful around his baggage. Mark Fuhrman probably planted marijuana in it.

You can't take the bad man out of Webber. You can't take the incompleteness out of him, either, even as he heads to Philadelphia this weekend to appear in his fourth NBA All-Star Game.

Webber barely resonates in the postseason, and only then because of his proclivity to stand out by the perimeter and shoot jump shots before disappearing into the offseason.

Webber is a so-called franchise player who does not act like one when it counts most. His teams have advanced past the opening round of the playoffs only one time in his eight seasons. It all comes out to a 7-17 playoff record in Webber's case, hardly worthy of his status as one of the game's premier players.

It is supposed to be different with Webber and the Kings this spring, and maybe it will be. If so, it is past time.

Webber is inclined to believe in the Kings, if only because he has no other choice after re-signing with the team last summer and he has lost the rationalization of youth. He can't dodge the responsibility forever. People are bound to notice. People are bound to talk.

The Kings are too good to ignore. The Kings, in fact, have the best record in the NBA (37-12) after 49 games. They seemingly have it all, starting with Mike Bibby, a genuine point guard.

Unlike the team's previous point guard, Jason Williams, the halftime show trapped in an NBA uniform, Bibby can deliver the simple pass, make the open shot and is not allergic to defense.

No one is likely to confuse Bibby with Gary Payton, but Bibby does not have to be special with the Kings. Given the parts in his midst, he just has to be competent, and he is that. Sometimes he is more than that.

The Kings have two deluxe scorers in Webber and Predrag Stojakovic, a savvy center in Vlade Divac, able complementary players in Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson and Hidayet Turkoglu, a solid bench and Scot Pollard, the new millennium's version of Dennis Rodman Lite. The Kings, in short, are formidable, and for better or worse, they are Webber's team.

Before kissing and making up with the Kings last summer, Webber talked of wanting to be around players who "go to war," an insulting metaphor that nitwit athletes sometimes employ to sound tough.

The issue of toughness is funny with Webber, considering his no-show against Shaquille O'Neal in the playoffs last season. Webber changed his position to shooting guard in that series, and the Lakers wound up sweeping the Kings in four games.

Webber is coming up on his due date in Sacramento, just as he did in Washington. Washington would have been satisfied if Webber had exhibited a small sense of professionalism. The bar is set higher in Sacramento.

Webber failed to meet the modest expectations on Fun Street, and so far, in Sacramento, he has failed to be the player who steps to the fore with four minutes left in a tight playoff game. He is only paid like that player.

Yet he is a bad man.

Some bad man.


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