Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Deja Webber (sports)

What kind of odds would you have gotten on this ten years ago? Don Nelson and Chris Webber not only reunite with the Warriors, Nelson turns out to be the catalyst for getting Webber back. I already sent Satan a down parka and a space heater. Even if they don’t get near the NBA championship, the Warriors might be the best theater in the NBA. If the team is some sort of morality play, the running theme seems to be redemption.

Always a champion in his playing career, Don Nelson the coach has proven repeatedly that he can rebuild a team and get it to the brink of serious contention, but... In his first go round with the Warriors back when America was saving Kuwait, Nelson hit on a way to play entertaining even winning basketball with Run TMC. In his quest to get to the NBA final, Nelson gave up the M (Mitch Richmond), lost the T (Tim Hardaway) to injury, and began looking for ways to get bigger while still playing "small ball". He traded up to get Chris Webber, a sophomore forward from Michigan, who was the rare power forward who passed and ran well enough to play in Nelson’s breakneck offensive system. The only problem was that in his rookie season, Webber had to play center most of the time. Nelson traded Billy Owens, a friend of Webber’s, to get Rony Seikaly, one of the league’s few true centers who could play offense from the Miami Heat.

Suddenly, it turned out that Chris Webber didn’t like the way Don Nelson coached. Before Webber’s second season and his ascent to elite status in the league got under way, it turned into “him or me” between Webber and Nelson. Within a few months, the Warriors lost both Webber and Nelson. “Him or me” degenerated into Donyell Marshall and twelve straight losing seasons.

Nelson eventually rebuilt the Dallas Mavericks, but couldn’t quite get Nowitzki and Nash over the championship hump. Critics often insisted that the problem was that Nelson couldn’t develop a big man who played near the basket.

Webber went to the Wizards who managed to not win with Rasheed Wallace, Webber, and Ben Wallace all on the roster at the same time. He then turned up in Sacramento where he had the best years of his career with former Warriors coach, Rick Adelman.
Some insisted the Kings couldn’t get over the hump because Webber didn’t go inside enough. For the last couple years, Webber’s been trying to be the missing piece on a championship level team. Injuries and chemistry kept it form working in Philadelphia. He played relatively well for the Pistons, but they fell short last year as well. At 35, Webber’s legacy is that of a good big man who wasn’t quite good enough to carry a team really deep into the playoffs.

There you have it. Nelson and Webber have parallel reputations as coach and player. The irony, of course, is that thirteen years ago Webber was going to be the star big man who could flourish in Nelson’s style. Now it appears that the Warriors are the only contender with much of an interest in the older-slower version of Chris Webber.

A year ago, I wrote that Don Nelson’s would be considered a genius in his return to Golden State if he managed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons. He’s well beyond that. Now he wants to up the ante and show that he can take a team to at least an NBA final. Most fascinating of all, Chris Webber is not the guy who’s going to play offense under the basket. He remains a terrific passer, medium range shooter, and has terrific hands. If he gives the team an inside presence on offense, it’ll be because Webber helps other Warriors get looks down there not because Webber backs anyone into the key.

One look at the Warriors and you see a bunch of individuals with something to prove. Baron Davis was supposed to be too injury prone and egocentric. Stephan Jackson was a principal in the Auburn Hills brawl who now serves as this team’s captain. Matt Barnes is a player whom no one wanted. If the reunion of Nelson and Webber works, it’s going to be one of the great redemption stories in sports. The only thing that would top it would be for Latrell Sprewell to sign with the Sonics and play with P.J., assuming that P.J. Carelissimo keeps his job through the all star game.



At 1/30/2008 01:27:00 PM, Blogger None said...

I love the recap. The Webber thing is kind of weird. That said, it was a long time ago. I still think the Kings (with Webber) beat LA in that series sometime back. That game 6 approached WWE proportions.

Oh, and I just checked out the standings for the Warriors..
Wins: 27
Losses: 19
Win Percentage: .587

And tied with Denver for the 8th spot. Looks like in a perfect world we may have a top seed to contend with in the first round, again.

At 1/30/2008 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Thanks PL.
Yeah, the west is genuinely crazy. Currently, Dallas and San Antonio would go into the playoffs as the 4 and 5 seeds.


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