Nellie Sees One-Time Warrior Webber as Golden State’s Answer
Posted Jan 27 2008 11:24PM
OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 27 -- Coach Don Nelson wants to bring free agent forward
"I hope that it happens to be quite honest with you,'' Nelson said Sunday before the Warriors hosted the New York Knicks. "I think our team needs it.''
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one team official said Webber's return to the Warriors is a "50-50" proposition while another source said an announcement could be made by the end of the week.
Suitors will likely offer Webber the pro-rated veteran's minimum of $1.2 million. Other teams believed to be interested include the Lakers and Pistons.
Webber was acquired by the Warriors in a draft day trade with Orlando in 1993 after becoming just the second sophomore ever to be the top pick in the NBA draft. He won the Rookie of the Year award and made the playoffs in his only season in Golden State.
But Webber clashed with Nelson and demanded a trade before his second season, and was eventually dealt to Washington in November 1994 for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round picks. At the time, Webber cited unhappiness over Nelson's sometimes abrasive coaching style as a main reason for his wanting out of Golden State.
Nelson was fired shortly after the trade, only to be brought back as Warriors coach last season. Golden State didn't make the playoffs for 12 seasons after Webber was traded, ending the drought last season. Nelson said he and Webber have talked over the years and that both men have matured since their feud more than a decade ago.
"I've learned over the years,'' Nelson said. "I've softened a bit through some of the experiences I've had. I look back at the time when Chris and I were here early in our careers. We were both pretty stubborn and I was maybe too tough and he was too young to see the positives I was trying to bring to the table. I've learned and I think he has, too. Hey, I'm an old man and he's an old player.''
Webber has not played in an NBA game since the Detroit Pistons lost to Cleveland in last season's Eastern Conference finals. The Pistons did not bring Webber back this season and he has been looking for a team to join. League officials told the Chronicle that the Warriors have been in touch with Webber over a possible deal for over a month.
Forward Matt Barnes, who played with Webber in Sacramento and Philadelphia, admitted he'd done his best to recruit his former teammate.
"It would be good to see Chris here," Barnes said. "I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. He's working out, just getting ready mentally, physically."
"That'd be awesome," Baron Davis said Saturday. "We just want to become a better team. If management feels like they can bring in somebody who can help us do that, we're all for it."
Webber averaged 11.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season with Philadelphia and Detroit. He bristled at his reduced role in the postseason, when he averaged 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game.
Webber is no longer the dynamic player he was in his first stint with the Warriors, having worn down during a 14-year career that included microfracture surgery on his knee in 2003. Webber was one of the top power forwards in the game during his 6 1/2 years in Sacramento, leading the Kings to the conference finals in 2002.
He remains one of the game's best passing big men, a skill Nelson believes the Warriors are severely lacking. Nelson has mostly played just two big men all season, with Andris Biedrins and Al Harrington sharing the load inside.
Golden State entered Sunday's game in seventh place in the Western Conference with a 26-18 record. Nelson said he's not afraid that adding Webber could disrupt the chemistry on a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs a year ago.
"I'm afraid if we don't get him here our team is not strong enough to be a playoff team,'' Nelson said. "That's my biggest fear. I think if he comes, it can benefit our team, it can benefit his and my relationship, it can benefit players on this team. I think he has a chance to make some of our players better and make our team better. Really that's all that's important. I'll get along with anybody who can help our team.'' The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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