Chris Webber posted big numbers in the Sacramento Kings' Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers—28 points and 14 rebounds—but no one's confusing him with an actual NBA superstar. "Chris Webber is the smiling slugger who hits 40 home runs a year, three of which anyone remembers," the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke writes. On possession after possession in Game 1, Webber refused to go near the hoop. "Of Webber's 14 baskets, six were launched from 18 feet or more. That's twice as many long shots as were taken by a bomber named Kobe Bryant. During Webber's 25 attempts, not once were the Lakers charged with a foul."
The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon, who watched Webber dismantle the Wizards, blames Kings coach Rick Adelman: "Sometimes he sends Webber down low. Just as often, or so it seems, he runs a high screen-and-roll that leaves Webber 16 feet from the basket and leaves the Lakers breathing a sigh of relief. Adelman is a 'This-is-the-way-we-play' system coach—at times slavishly—who does little on the fly. If Webber takes a damn-the-system approach, he'll risk being portrayed as a selfish bum and perhaps alienate his teammates."
This Sacramento Bee story ran last week with the immortal headline, "Kings Fight Jitters With Pizza and Naps."
A Ming Dynasty in Houston? The Houston Rockets snagged the first pick in the NBA's June draft. Should they use it on Chinese big man Yao Ming? "If there was ever a time in the history of the franchise to take a gamble so huge, this is it," the Houston Chronicle's Fran Blinebury writes. "Because the Rockets, as they are currently configured, are irrelevant." A Chinese official warned the South China Morning Post that negotiations with the Rockets—not Yao or the Chinese government's first choice—could get "very complicated."
The New York Knicks landed the No. 7 pick in draft, ending their own chances of drafting Yao. But the New York Post's Marc Berman reports that the Knicks will attempt to pry Yao from the Rockets in a "blockbuster" trade that would involve Latrell Sprewell.
Strike 2: Last week, Major Leaguers hinted that they might stage a "work stoppage" in August or October, killing the second World Series in less than a decade. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark downplays the threat but admits that "the more time either side spends trying to spin public opinion means the less interested it is in trying to negotiate a real, constructive, creative solution." The biggest loser in such a scenario: Bud Selig. "Selig can't afford another strike… Not unless he wants to go down in history as The Commissioner Who Canceled Two World Series. Selig's standard response to that legacy is that the players went on strike, so he had no choice. But the public rarely seems to remember that."
Was Bob Shrum unavailable? Though they haven't had a winning season since 1995, the Chargers are squeezing the citizens of San Diego for a new stadium. If that doesn't work, ownership will bolt for Los Angeles, where it has already moved the team's summer training camp. The Los Angeles Times' T.J. Simers thinks the Chargers must be in hot water because the man they've hired to spin the stadium issue is political flack Mark Fabiani, whose résumé reads like a rap sheet:
Special counsel to President Bill Clinton, 1994-1995
Director of communications for Vice President Al Gore, 2000
Image consultant to California Gov. Gray Davis, 2001
Fabiani's first promise: "[T]he Chargers aren't leaving and we're going to do everything to keep them here."
Read a good column lately? Post a link in "The Fray." The best entries will be mentioned in future columns.