AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Chris Webber is ready to go home.
"Joining the Pistons will allow me the opportunity to play the
game I love in my hometown of Detroit surrounded by my family,"
Webber said Monday.
The five-time All-Star will sign with Detroit, returning to the
area where he grew up and starred in college at Michigan.
After committing to playing for the Pistons, Webber watched them
play Minnesota in front-row seats Monday at The Palace. He was
greeted by a rousing, standing ovation. The Wolves won 94-90 in overtime.
Webber was waived by the Philadelphia 76ers last week. He will
become an unrestricted free agent after clearing waivers Tuesday,
freeing him to sign a new deal.
"We think Chris is going to be a great fit for the way we
play," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "The guys are excited,
I'm excited and the town's going to be excited."
Webber will not be able to practice with his new team Tuesday
morning, but he might play Wednesday night at home against Utah, perhaps alongside Chauncey Billups, who has been out eight games
because of a calf injury.
"That changes everything," Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey
said. "You are adding two All-Stars, quite possibly two Hall of
Famers, to a pretty good lineup."
The 76ers cut ties Thursday with Webber by buying out the final
1½ years of his contract. Webber was scheduled to earn $20.7 million from the Sixers this season and $22.3 million next season, with the buyout believed to be paying him all but $5 million-$7 million of that sum.
In Detroit, Webber will earn a pro-rated share of the league's $1.2 million veteran minimum, with $450,000 of that amount -- also pro-rated for the rest of the season -- picked up by the league office.
"This is the best I've felt in three years," Webber told ESPN.com last week. "Now the thing I want to do most is win a championship, put myself back on that kind of level.
"My father said I haven't smiled on the court in about three years. I just want to get back to playing with a smile on my face and playing with a team that can really vie for a title."
Webber is coming back to familiar territory. He was born in Detroit, won state high school titles at Detroit Country Day and led Michigan's "Fab Five" to NCAA championship games in 1992 and 1993. He was the No. 1 pick overall in the 1993 NBA draft.
Webber in the past was regularly booed at The Palace because of his involvement with deceased Michigan booster Ed Martin that led to NCAA sanctions against the university. He wants to contribute to a contender, and Detroit gives him a chance to do that.
"I look forward to joining a roster of talented athletes and
working towards a fourth NBA title for the Pistons and the great
city of Detroit," he said.
The 6-foot-10 Webber could start at center next to power forward
Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons have the second-best record in the
Eastern Conference and are the first team since the early 1990s to
advance to four straight conference championships.
Center Nazr Mohammed, who lost his starting job last week, said
he wants out if the Webber acquisition leads to him being used even
less off the bench.
"I came here to play," said Mohammed, who came to Detroit as a
free agent last summer after Ben Wallace left for Chicago. "If I'm
not in the plan, I would ask for a trade."
To help create frontcourt minutes for Webber, Detroit has discussed a deal with Minnesota that would send center Mohammed to the Wolves for guard Marko Jaric, NBA front-office sources have told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Mohammed began the season as Ben Wallace's replacement at center after signing a five-year deal worth just over $30 million. But trading him for Jaric would bring a more natural pecking order to the Pistons' forward rotation. Webber would pair with Rasheed Wallace in the starting lineup and Antonio McDyess, Dale Davis and fast-improving youngster Jason Maxiell would back them up, with the Pistons hoping that Webber's arrival gives a much-needed jolt to the slumping Rasheed Wallace.
The Pistons are also looking for another perimeter player, having been foiled in their attempts to land Houston's Bonzi Wells and Toronto's Morris Peterson. Jaric's contract has one year less to run than Mohammed's in same price bracket, so the teams would be swapping problems if this trade goes through.
Jaric is openly eager to leave town after two seasons of major struggle following a controversial trade with the Clippers that cost Minnesota a future first-round draft pick in addition to Kevin Garnett-favorite Sam Cassell. The Wolves have also been looking for more size up front in support of Garnett and a rejuvenated Mark Blount.
No trade can be consummated before Tuesday at the earliest.
The 33-year-old Webber wanted the rebuilding Sixers to trade him after he averaged 11 points and 8.3 rebounds in 18 games. He has career averages of 21.4 points and 10 rebounds. Sacramento gave him a $123 million, seven-year contract in the summer of 2001.
Last season, Webber proved he could still produce. He averaged
20.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in 75 games -- the most he played since
the 1999-2000 season with the Kings. Webber said in training camp he
was feeling as strong physically as he had since surgery on his
left knee in 2003.
Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.