Posted on by Dal
Chris Webber finally left Sacramento -- and for a whole lot less than a King's ransom.
Now, the Kings will find out whether they're really a better team without their cornerstone, and the Philadelphia 76ers will learn whether another superstar can thrive alongside Allen Iverson.
The Kings dealt Webber to the Sixers late Wednesday night in a six-player deal that dramatically reshaped both clubs on the eve of the trade deadline.
Philadelphia got Webber, one of the NBA's elite power forwards and a five-time All-Star, along with reserve forwards Matt Barnes and Michael Bradley. The Sixers gave up relatively little in return, sending veteran forwards Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner to the Kings.
Webber's departure from Sacramento has been discussed nearly since the moment Geoff Petrie acquired him from Washington before the 1999 season. The Kings' president of basketball operations rebuilt the small-market Kings around Webber, transforming the franchise from a perennial loser to a club with six straight winning seasons and two division titles.
``He has been an instrumental part of ushering in an era of basketball here in Sacramento that most of the world at that time did not believe could happen,'' Petrie said late Wednesday night. ``I don't think myself or anyone in this organization could thank him enough.''
Petrie was typically vague about his reasons for the deal, citing only ``flexibility and versatility,'' but Webber is due to make $62 million over the next three seasons -- and Petrie clearly is among the NBA observers who believe Sacramento's up-tempo passing offense will be even better without Webber in the middle.
Peja Stojakovic, Brad Miller and Mike Bibby all thrived last season while Webber recovered from knee surgery -- but all three stars regressed when Webber returned. Though both Webber and Stojakovic denied rumors of a rift between Sacramento's stars, Stojakovic demanded a trade from the Kings last summer.
And though Webber had the best years of his career in Sacramento, the forward with the megawatt smile and larger-than-life personality always longed for a bigger stage -- even after the Kings re-signed him to a seven-year deal worth approximately $127 million in 2001.
In Philadelphia, Webber will get the national attention he always craved -- and Iverson will get some of the help he has always wanted.
``The message that we're sending is that we went out and got a player who's averaging 21 and 10 to go along with our young players,'' Sixers president Billy King said. ``I think the way we play, it allows some of our younger guys to develop even more because you've got a big guy now that can really make passes and shoot the jump shot.''
The 76ers host the Kings on Saturday, and Philadelphia will play in Sacramento on March 28.
The Sixers are 26-27 and just a half-game behind Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division, while the Kings have the NBA's seventh-best record at 34-20 heading out on a six-game road trip, their longest of the season.
verson, the NBA's leading scorer, claimed he didn't ask to be traded if the Sixers didn't make any bold moves to contend in a weakened Eastern Conference this year -- but the All-Star game MVP believed the Sixers needed help to make a playoff push.
``If there's anything we need, it's definitely a big man,'' he said Monday. ``A big man would help us a lot, especially a big man that can rebound and block shots.''
Webber, the No. 1 overall pick in 1993 following a stellar career at Michigan, has played exceptionally well for the Kings in recent weeks, averaging 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game -- though he isn't the athlete he was before knee surgery.
Williamson, a first-round draft pick by the Kings in 1995, played five years in Sacramento before being traded to Toronto for Doug Christie following the 1999-00 season. The NBA's top sixth man in 2001-02 with the Pistons, Williamson is averaging 10.8 points and 3.7 rebounds this season.
Thomas, an undersized power forward with a reliable jumper, fell out of favor with coach Jim O'Brien this season, while Skinner was a free-agent bust.
Barnes, a Sacramento native, has been a seldom-used reserve for the Kings this season, though he took Stojakovic's spot in the starting lineup recently. Bradley was acquired earlier in the season in Sacramento's deal for Mobley, but hasn't played much.
Petrie had never made a significant in-season trade before this season, but made two in recent weeks: The Kings acquired Cuttino Mobley from Orlando for Christie last month, beginning his most radical reshaping of Sacramento's roster since 1999.
Stojakovic, Bibby and injured guard Bobby Jackson are the only remaining Kings who were with the team in the 2003 playoffs.
``I think we can still have a very good basketball team the remainder of the season,'' Petrie said. ``It's going to be a challenge with the amount of change we've made now, because I'm trying to blend in even more new faces with 29 games to go. I have a lot of confidence in our remaining nucleus.''