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Webber Set to Make Pistons Debut vs. Jazz
Posted Jan 17 2007 2:02PM
For a time, it was hard to imagine Detroit ever welcoming Chris Webber back. But years after a booster scandal made the Motor City native an unpopular figure at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Webber is now receiving a warm welcome.
Webber is expected to play as a reserve Wednesday against the Utah Jazz, although the Pistons (21-15) eventually plan on moving him to the starting lineup.
Webber became a free agent after the Philadelphia 76ers bought out the final 1 1/2 years of his contract, and he will make him $650,000 for the rest of the season with the Pistons. He agreed to give the Sixers $2 million this season and $2 million next season when he was due to make about $43 million over that stretch.
"This is definitely special, I never thought I would be a Detroit Piston," Webber said at a news conference on Tuesday.
The five-time All-Star grew up in Detroit and played at Michigan from 1991-93, but his impressive career with the Wolverines was overshadowed by his involvement in a booster scandal that led to NCAA sanctions for the school's program. Because of that, he regularly received boos from the home crows in his trips to the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Webber said the warm welcome he received from fans while watching his new team play on Monday was a good indicator the city has moved on.
"I think the reaction in the past was different for a lot of reasons, things I've gone through, but yesterday was significant because they welcomed me back home," said Webber, who has averaged 21.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game over his career. Webber's arrival also coincides with another piece of good news for the Pistons. After being sidelined by a calf injury since Dec. 29, Chauncey Billups resumed practicing on Tuesday, although the team was cautious about saying whether he would be ready to play against the Jazz.
"We'll wait and see how he reacts after a day of practice, but he went through all the drills," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He didn't do anything to make it worse, so we'll see how it is tomorrow."
Billups is averaging 18 points and 8.1 assists in 28 games this season. The Pistons were 3-5 without him in the lineup.
"We could use anything right now," small forward Tayshaun Prince said. "We've been playing so up and down, more down as of late because of Chauncey. When he's not out here, it's a whole different mindset and structure."
Detroit has lost three of its last four, including a 94-90 overtime defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. Richard Hamilton's 32 points led the Pistons, while Antonio McDyess scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench.
The Pistons have won 22 of the last 30 meetings against the Jazz (24-14), who visit Detroit in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season. Utah dropped its fourth straight game on Monday, falling 114-111 to the Washington Wizards on a Gilbert Arenas 3-pointer as time expired.
Mehmet Okur led the Jazz with a career-high 38 points, while Carlos Boozer added 27 points and 13 rebounds.
The Jazz have allowed opponents to average 115.8 points during the losing streak - 16.4 points more than their season average.
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