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Inside the NBA | COAST TO COAST

Webber's not exactly having a fab finish

January 14, 2007|MARK HEISLER

Something finally went right for Chris Webber, whose knack for pratfalls made him the NBA's most scorned star before he blew out his knee in 2003 and was exiled to Philadelphia in 2005.

The 76ers last week bought out his last $32 million for a $5-million discount, changing him from an overpriced doorstop on a lost team to a desirable big man who could still average 20 points and nine rebounds last season.

Webber said he was courted by 17 teams, although not all of them seemed to know about it.

The Lakers, for whom he showed enthusiasm on TNT, had a distinct "who, us?" sound, even if they have since figured out it's a freebie, which can't hurt.

Said 76ers President Billy King, perhaps under the impression Webber was taking this hard: "I talked to Chris and I think he's a pro."

Actually, Webber's glee was such, his publicist e-mailed a statement thanking King to writers around the country.

Said Webber of leaving the post-Allen Iverson 76ers: "Once you get rid of Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5 is gone. You haven't heard of Tito since Michael left."

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Breaking up even harder to do in the tabloids

Every season has challenges, but the New Jersey Nets were thinking more about Detroit and Miami than the Mother of All Divorces, which exploded all over the New York tabloids .

Jason Kidd sued his wife, Joumana, for divorce, alleging that she abused him, bugged his computer and his car, and sent their son, T.J., into the dressing room to steal his cellphone.

Replied Joumana's lawyer, the flamboyant Raoul Felder: "This is the same man who pled guilty to beating her up over some French-fried potatoes."

With Vince Carter going through his own divorce and Richard Jefferson railing about scrutiny, the Nets squeezed in some basketball, taking a first-place showdown with the Toronto Raptors and coming from 18 points behind to win in Chicago.

"He let his teammates know right away, 'We're gonna win this game,' " Coach Lawrence Frank said after Kidd got 23 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in Chicago. "I can't do him justice by saying how special that performance was."

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East is east ...

After an unidentified Piston missed practice, mild-mannered Tayshaun Prince raised eyebrows, noting, "Basketball ain't the problem with our team right now." The player turned out to be Rasheed Wallace, who was demoted to the bench. Wallace said he had no problem not being a starter -- and the team lost six of eight, including one at home to the Bobcats.

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... and West is west

The Kings blew a 15-point lead at home, melting down in a 70-45 second half and losing to the Cavaliers while their fans booed. After weeks of denial, Mike Bibby said: "We've got to put away the individual stuff and go try to do the collective team thing. Try to win a game instead of trying to see how many points you can score or how many shots you can get up." Coincidentally or not, Ron Artest took the most shots, 14, missing 10, but took a less dire view of the loss, calling it "a fun game to be a part of." ... Suggesting the Warriors are ready to make a move, sphinx-like GM Chris Mullin criticized Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy Jr., telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "It's disappointing. Mike and Murph, we need more out of them." More succinctly, Coach Don Nelson railed, "Where are our veterans? What the hell are they doing? We shouldn't be relying on Matt Barnes to have a good game to win, but that's where we're at."

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Famous last words

Houston's Dikembe Mutombo: "It's amazing, just the way I'm playing. Even to myself, I'm sitting down like, 'Whoa, is Mutombo really playing like that?' I haven't seen myself jumping for a rebound like that for a while."

-- MARK HEISLER

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