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Inside the NBA | COAST TO COAST

One of the best deals the Lakers never made

January 21, 2007|Mark Heisler

The next time the Lakers recruit someone, it might be a good idea to tell Phil Jackson not to zing his agent, but in this case it turned out OK.

Even at 33 with his wheels shot, Chris Webber's size, skill level and bargain price made him a bonanza for any contender ... assuming he was willing to fit in.

Unfortunately, even at 33, he's still Chris Webber.

Of his five preferred teams, two (Dallas, San Antonio) had no interest and his favorite (the Lakers) wouldn't guarantee they'd start him or even give him "significant minutes."

So he chose the Pistons, who need help, or divine intervention, with Rasheed Wallace giving off those signals again.

"I think having Chris will help ease [Wallace's] tension some," said Chauncey Billups. "It will let him know he's got somebody else, another great player, playing alongside of him again."

Webber used to be a great player, anyway. With his usual No. 4 retired (Joe Dumars) in Detroit, he now wears No. 84 ... because his 7-year-old nephew saw it in a dream. "We won the game he dreamed about, so I'm wearing No. 84," Webber said before his Pistons debut.

In the cold, cruel world, he then shot one for five from the field as they lost to Utah at home, before scoring 16 points in Friday's win at Minnesota.

"I'm sure people expected more," he said after his first game. "You can't judge this on one night. I'm telling you, this is going to be special."

One way or another

Last week's big deal was a Golden State Warriors coup, trading Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, whom Don Nelson would have sent to Siberia if he could and who had problem contracts to boot, for Indiana's Al Harrington and Sarunas Jasikevicius.

Wrote the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler: "Granted, it's easy to trash guys who just got traded ... so let's get started!"

The Pacers wanted promising Ike Diogu, but they really wanted to change their chemistry, so the Warriors had to take Stephen Jackson too. That was a good start, but it will take a lot to stop the fall that started with the 2004 Auburn Hills riot.

On his way out, Harrington zapped Coach Rick Carlisle's "slow-down" offense. Harrington's buddy, Jermaine O'Neal, galactically overpriced at $20.5 million a year -- and on his way out by mutual consent -- just got that much closer to the door.

East is east ...

There was another round of denials in Detroit, where Wallace's declining play and mounting technical foul total (12, including one that led to Mehmet Okur's fourth-quarter free throw in Utah's 100-99 win last week) is attributed to an old ankle injury, the departure of Ben Wallace, the departure of Larry Brown and/or the moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars. Wallace went off on ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan ("just a snake in paradise"), who reported "a growing note of discord and disharmony -- aw, heck, let's just call it hate" toward Coach Flip Saunders. Said Saunders: "I don't think he hates me. That's a pretty strong statement." How about "has little use for you?" The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg had just written a column suggesting the same thing.

... and West is west

New Seattle owner Clay Bennett, asked about the futures of Coach Bob Hill and General Manager Rick Sund, paused nine seconds (aren't voice recorders great?) before telling the Associated Press, "We completely support Bob and Rick and we have a hope that this season can still turn around." Well, it could mean he just didn't recognize their names.... Denver's Allen Iverson, after Portland rookie Sergio Rodriguez got 23 points with 10 assists against him: "If you can judge him off of tonight's game, I mean, wow. It's a long, grueling season, but if he stays with it, the sky's the limit for him."

Famous last words

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich, asked if the Chicago Bulls did anything different to hold Tony Parker to a season-low six points: "Not a damn thing.... He came up with that game all by himself. It was quite creative."

-- Mark Heisler

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