Chris Webber took a look at the Lakers and the minutes they could offer. He even spoke to Phil Jackson about it during a Saturday night cellphone conversation.
But he decided to sign with the Detroit Pistons, with whom he is expected to get plenty of playing time and a chance to repair a strained relationship with his home state.
The free-agent forward, waived Thursday by the Philadelphia 76ers after they bought out a majority of his $43-million contract, chose his hometown team over the Lakers, Miami and Dallas. Webber, who attended Country Day High in Detroit and then the University of Michigan, will officially sign with the Pistons today.
"I felt like he was going to have a tough time making the decision," Jackson said. "Obviously, he made one that was comfortable for him. He's been a great player in the NBA and I hope he has success there."
Webber's best days as a player are behind him and he has turned primarily into a perimeter shooter, but the Lakers hoped to sign him to a low-cost contract because his passing skills and shooting touch would fit well in the triangle offense. Webber, who turns 34 in March, averaged 11 points, 8.3 rebounds and 30.2 minutes a game for the 76ers in 18 games this season.
He wouldn't have started over Lamar Odom, who is expected back from a sprained knee ligament by the end of the month, and he would have taken minutes away from Andrew Bynum if he had played center, his likely position with the Pistons.
It didn't really come down to money -- he will earn only about $650,000 this season from Detroit -- but, rather, a chance to revive his career with significant court time in front of home-crowd fans who often booed him.
With Webber and the "Fab Five," Michigan reached the Final Four in 1992 and 1993, but a booster scandal involving Webber eventually led to NCAA sanctions and the removal of those two Final Four banners at the Wolverines' arena.
Webber attended the Pistons' game against Minnesota as a fan Monday and got a standing ovation when he arrived in the first quarter. The NBA offices were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, making today the first day he could officially sign a new contract.
"I thank all of the interested teams for their time and consideration," Webber said in a statement. "Joining the Pistons will allow me to play the game I love in my hometown of Detroit, surrounded by my family."
Center Kwame Brown appears to be somewhat ahead of schedule in his return from a severely sprained ankle.
The Lakers declined to provide a timetable when Brown was injured, but such sprains usually take four to six weeks to heal. He has been out since Dec. 31, when he landed awkwardly after blocking the shot of Philadelphia 76ers guard Andre Miller.
"I think he's making good progress," Jackson said.
The Lakers, who begin a three-game trip Wednesday in San Antonio, decided later in the day against bringing Brown on the trip.
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There were 1,675 votes cast in Sunday's online poll: Should the Lakers sign Chris Webber?
*--* Yes. 52.2% * But only if he understands his role with the team. No. 21.9% * They need someone like him, but he's not worth the headache. Yes. 13.1% * No matter what, he is the final piece of the NBA title puzzle. No. 12.8% * The Lakers can win the title without him.
The next poll: If L.A. ever gets an NFL team, what should its nickname be?