My first reaction to the announcement that Chris Webber was staying with the Sacramento Kings was, did he want to or did he have to? It was probably a combination of both.
Webber stayed in Sacramento, but it's unfortunate that he kicked and screamed a bit before doing so. Human nature sometimes dictates that we reject the one who tells us they love us, while wanting the other ones to tell us they love us. In Webber's case: Sacramento, OK, they love me, but who else loves me? Does Orlando love me? No, obviously not that much. How about my hometown Detroit? Hmm ... apparently not. What about the Knicks or Indiana? Anyone? Anyone?
Maybe I'm being tough on him, but it's hard to be sympathetic for Webber. Here's a guy on the verge of signing a $123 million-dollar contract, the largest possible contract under league rules and the second-richest contract in NBA history. He will play in a city that embraces him on a team that allows him to be the star. And the owners love him.
He went on the free-agent tour, but clearly the best place for him was in his own backyard. Need some proof? The Kings traded Jason Williams to bring in a legitimate point guard in Mike Bibby. They have emerging stars in Predrag Stojakovic and Hidayet Turkoglu. Doug Christie just re-signed (a seven-year contract) and they'll have some bench depth. So it's difficult to feel sympathy that Webber didn't get to go where he wanted to go.
I'm curious to see how Webber will re-embrace this city. After all, he hurt some feelings and probably stepped on some hearts. The city of Sacramento and Chris Webber initially seemed made for each other. Together, they were trying to dispel myths that free agents don't want to go to Sacramento while proving Webber to be more than just a talented but troubled superstar. They made each other better. The fans, owners and team have reached out to Webber. Now, he needs to make sure he is not perceived as just reaching for his paycheck. But I think he'll be fine.
The Kings are on the verge of being a special team. They're probably not ready to challenge the Lakers, but who is? It's a good situation, and aside from Vlade Divac, it's a young and refreshing team to watch.
The Kings are on the verge of being a special team. They're probably not ready to challenge the Lakers, but who is?
Chris Webber is not the first and certainly won't be the last athlete to say "it's not about the money" and he "wants to win a championship." If it's that important for Webber to win a championship, and if money is truly not the issue, then why not go down the road to Los Angeles, play for a couple of million dollars and have the best odds of winning an NBA title? Mitch Richmond did just that, but he's past his prime. It's not the same when you're as close to the end as Richmond is.
That didn't happen because it is about the money. That's why Webber is back in Sacramento, albeit after some fruitless searching. Still, if you want to win a championship, take less money.
So some day, when a superstar just entering his prime like Chris Webber does that, maybe I'll start believing it's not just a cliché to say, "It's not about the money." Until then, it is about the money. Especially when you're going back to a city that you tried awfully hard to leave.