Transcription of Chris Webber Press Conference
In attendance: Flip Saunders, Chris Webber, Joe Dumars
Q: Chris, will you just give us sort of your thoughts about coming home? It has been a while since playing here in a hometown jersey. What do you think about that?
Webber: It’s definitely special, I never thought that I could be here as a Piston at this point in my career. So, for me and my family, it is a total surprise and total shock and I feel great. I feel renewed and I am excited. I’m energized. I haven’t felt this good about the game in a long time and being able to come home, and come to a team most importantly, to play with some great player and good people in the organization. So for me, that’s what I’m really excited about. Being home, I am here in the summer, but being home on a great team, that’s what makes me feel good.
Q: Throughout your career, we have seen what you can do. What is some realistic expectations between the team you played with and the team you are joining now?
Webber: I think the realistic expectation is to win. That’s really it. To be able to be on a team where you can throw all statistics out the window, but the intensity that each guy brings to the team, that’s what I am looking forward to. Hopefully at the end of the day everybody I play with I have made them better. That is kind of what I pride myself in, but I really am not concentrating on one thing. Hopefully I can play greater than I did. But more so help guys get better, and play their best.
Q: Chris, can you just outline the health problems you had this year and where you are now and what you have been doing over the past couple of weeks?
Webber: I have been working out. I feel good. I have been working with the training staff here, so I normally feel better. The knee is fine. It can be irritating here and there but I feel really good. So that’s where we are, I feel really good.
Q: Chris, you obviously made a lot of money this year and done a lot of things individually. Can you talk about being here gives you a chance to win a championship, the one thing you haven’t done in the NBA?
Webber: I have to say I am excited to be home in Detroit, but I am more excited about being on this team. This team was already great before I got here, so in no way am I acting like I am coming here and doing this team a big service. I am part of a great machine already and that’s the good thing about it. Last season was not all that enjoyable because we didn’t win. And to be able to be on a team that has high expectations for me, that’s really what I want to be apart of.
Q: Can you talk about the process that brought you here? You considered the Lakers. You considered some other teams. Were the Pistons the frontrunner all the way or did you check what your other options were?
Webber: Well, you know, not being really in a position before to go anywhere without any type of restrictions I wanted to make sure that all the options in the obvious places really had good teams. The way it came down to this place, more so than being home, more so than anything else, it was the fact that you all really showed that you wanted me here. The organization, the coaches I got to talk to, everyone let me know that they really wanted me and you want to be wanted. You want to be apart of an organization that wants you and makes you want to be part of them too. And the guys on the team and the way they get along. I played with Rasheed before. I played with the guy and he told me by far this was the best locker room he has ever been in before. And just, that’s the part of the game I love too. To come around here with the guys and to be apart of an organization where everything is okay, lets just work as hard as we can really the overall situation with the Pistons. About six years ago I had a meeting with Joe when I was in Sacramento and he said, “well, we are going to win a championship anyway.” And they did a couple years later. And you know I trust his word and I believe we can do great things.
Q: Chris, can you talk a little bit about yesterday when you were sitting in the crowd what it meant to get that fan reaction and that warm welcome? And have you anticipated what it might be like tomorrow, if in fact you get out on the court and into the game? What might be going through your head or if your stomach will be in knots.
Webber: Well, my stomach will be in knots. It has been in knots since I was signing. I couldn’t believe it. Yesterday coming into the game we came in during a timeout. I haven’t felt that good since draft day, which was here at The Palace. Just to be home and to hear the fans start cheering for you is great. You know, I am a Detroit fan of sports so I appreciate the Detroit fan. Coming in yesterday and people let me know they approve of me playing here was a great feeling.
Q: Chris, a little more about the knee. Where are you? How much different of a player are you now than before you hurt your knee and on a side note, why the number 84?
Webber: I will start with the knee. The knee feels pretty good. It feels good. Last year I played the most games and the most minutes of any season I ever have since joining the NBA. My condition is pretty good besides it has its days. Last year I had a really good season in the midst of not feeling so good. I had a really good summer in rehabilitation and I don’t plan on any of that to hold me back. The number 84. I called up my six-year-old nephew and I told him that I might be coming home to Detroit and I had to explain everything to him. And he said, “What jersey are you going to wear?” I told him I can’t wear number 4, Joe Dumars is the man and I can’t wear number 4.
Dumars: Smart player, smart guy.
Webber: He said, “Get 84.” I said, “What?” He said, “Get a pencil. Write it down. 84 is your jersey.” His mother than got on the phone and said he had a dream I was wearing 84. And I am going to wear 84. I won the game he had a dream about it. I thought about 44, my high school number, but when my nephew said that, I said, “why not?”
Q: Just wondering what you think of Flip’s system? How you might fit in it and how your addition to it makes this team better? How you think you are going to affect this team as far as playoffs go?
Webber: Well I am very familiar with coach because I played against him a lot of the West coast and I had to check the big men that he had playing. I am very familiar with the system from the outside looking in. And that’s one of the things I like about it too. I just got an encyclopedia of plays, so I will make sure I study them up. But I just heard from guys. When you talk to guys, you ask them how the coach is and all I heard was great things and all I heard was just play and do your thing. So I am very excited to be apart of that. I just want to help in anyway. Like I said they don’t need a savior, I am just part of the team. So I am going to do everything I can do to better myself and be a team player and help the team win.
Q: Chris, you mentioned that the reaction you had yesterday from the crowd was just remarkable and it has been different from some other reactions you have had in the past here. Do you feel that, as almost a sign that what has happened in the past in bygone, forgiven now and it’s a fresh start for you?
Webber: Ya, I think the reaction from the past for a lot of reasons was, just for a lot of reasons, coming in with other teams. You know, yesterday was significant in the fact that they welcomed me back home. You can be cheered by your fans in other cities, but to be cheered by your fans at home, there is nothing like it. That was the best part about it. Coming to a home game and in the middle of a time out hearing that, “okay we approve this.”
Q: This question is for Flip. Knowing Chris the way you have competing against him, how do you see him fitting in with your system and what changes do you feel he needs to make to fit in?
Flip: Part of what Joe talked about earlier is that Chris cares about winning, which is important. More than anything else, he is a multi-dimensional player that makes other players better. There probably is not a better passing big man in the game in the last 5-10 years. Whenever you play against him, the thing you always had to worry about was not only what he can do with the ball, but what he did to make other people better. How we are built as a team, we are built as a team and not an individual and our guys are built to play off the ball, ball movement, player movement and that’s going to really play right into his hands. One thing is that probably gets overlooked is Chris has a high basketball IQ and that’s why he will fit right in with our players. I think he will be fun to watch. He is going to make other guys better, he will make them better, and it will be a lot of fun.
Q: Chris, you mentioned that over the last 14 years you always get that questions about when you were here. Now that your back and this is your hometown, what do you say to those fans that still harbor those feelings about your actions when you played in college here?
Webber: Well, anywhere you go you are going to get “booed”. I grew up watching the Pistons and Bill Laimbeer used to tell people to keep “booing” him. So hopefully, on the road I still get “booed”, because I think that appreciation on the road. But anyone is welcome to their own opinion. I came here to win and be part of an organization, a top-notch organization, and I’m part of a top-notch organization and hopefully I can now be part of a winning organization. But anyone is entitled to their own opinions. I just come here to play hard and hopefully win and let our game do the talking and hopefully the Pistons fans will support us.
Q: Flip, will he play tomorrow?
Flip: If he can play tomorrow he can play, and he said he can play. He will be ready to go through a shoot around tomorrow morning and I guess we will get his feet wet.
Q: Chris, welcome back. Do you want to take this opportunity to talk about the Michigan situation? The Ed Martin and everything that happened. Talk about, “when it’s all said and done, well I will tell everything what really went on.” You have a great forum here and a chance to address that. What do you want to say about that and to the people of Michigan?
Webber: Well, today I want to talk about being a Detroit Piston. I don’t think this the forum to talk about what happened 15 years ago. Right now, I am here and I am excited about being part of this organization and I am just really happy. We can talk about anything else, but I feel that would be a waste of my time. I am very happy to be apart of the Pistons and that is why I am here today.
Q: Chauncy talked yesterday about the possibility of fielding a line up with you guys out there. I know you have played with some good people out in Sacramento, but you haven’t experienced where all five guys can put up 20 points and in a variety of ways. Have you envisioned you a member of that lineup and the offensive possibilities?
Webber: To be able to go out there and play with Rip, a great point guard like Chauncy Billiups and Tayshaun Prince, a guy who can do everything Rasheed and me means so much. I was talking about how enthusiasm means so much to me and to have a guy like Rasheed in my ear will make me want to be a better player and energize me so much more. I am excited to be apart of this. I just look forward to getting to know everybody’s game so I help them become better, because I know it will help me become better too. A veteran team that knows the game, that doesn’t panic, but plays the game, I am excited to be apart of it.
Q: Joe, can you just highlight for how long you have held interest for Chris in bringing him here and a little look into how it has failed in the past?
Dumars: It was six years ago when Chris was a free agent and he came by my house and we sat down and had a good long visit, and it was a very honest visit, and he more or less said he was going to be signing with Sacramento. So we have had interest in him for a long time. He’s been one of the main stays around here on the sports scene for a long time, even back in high school at Country Day and for Michigan. He wasn’t like another player who is a free agent, so lets make a run at him. You knew all the things that he brought. I am happy to have him. Just as Rasheed energized us, he will do the same thing. He will energize our players, our fans, our coaches, himself, myself. I think people will get energized from him. Our starting five out there with him, I think it’s going to be right out there with the best in the league again.
Q: Chris you talked about coming back here with a team that you like, but you also talked about coming back home. Do you feel like you have to reconnect, or repair anything with the fans in this area from those years?
Webber: I think that’s a good question. You know I live here over the summer, so this is home to me. It’s not like I haven’t been home. I would like to reconnect with any fans I am not connected with, of course. I’m still a Country Day fan, I’m still a Michigan fan, I still hate Ohio State, and nothing at all has changed. I would like to of course, reconnect with any fans that may not be supportive. But, the only thing I can control is the way I am with my teammates, the way I represent this organization and I think my obligation is to the team. To be all I can be and play hard and hopefully, everyone will get an opportunity to know me and I can prove that and not just through what they hear. Of course it feels good to be home. One thing that is funny is when I played for other cities I was always getting teased for wearing a Detroit hat, a Tiger’s hat, or I have a Detroit tattoo on my arm, so everyone would kill me when the Lions would lose. But it was nice when the Tiger’s went to the World Series so everyone in the world knew I am from Detroit, I love Detroit. But to anyone in Detroit, I would love to be reconnected with. I love Detroit, I live in Detroit and now I get to play for the Pistons, and to me that feel great.