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Webber Hearing It From Philly Fans

By Greg Sandoval
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; 11:51 AM

The city of Philadelphia was ready to crown Billy King as king two weeks ago, when the 76ers' general manager traded three so-so players for Chris Webber, one of the game's most skilled power forwards.

Webber was the missing piece, the pundits said. For years, fans had lamented that the 76ers were without a big-time big man to compliment all-star guard Allen Iverson.

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The club needed another scoring option when teams swarmed the 6-foot Iverson. Webber appeared to be the answer. But 11 days after the 76ers traded Corliss Williamson, Brian Skinner and Kenny Thomas to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Webber, the deal looks like a bust.

Philadelphia fans filled the Wachovia Center with boos last night, most directed at Webber, during the club's 104-85 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Webber is shooting 34.5 percent as a 76er and averaging 14.4 points and 8 rebounds. In Sacramento he hit 44.9 percent of his shots and scored 21.3 points per game.

Webber, who left the locker room before reporters were allowed in, has complained during the past few days about struggling to fit in with Philadelphia coach Jim O'Brien's system. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Webber looked lost last night.

"Chris is a five-time all-star, and you have to be fair," O'Brien told the paper. "Offensively and defensively, here's a guy that is thrown into the mix, changing coasts, going from a completely different system, and then is asked to play seven games in [11] days with very, very little practice.

"When we do have practice days, sometimes depending on how many minutes he has played the game before, he does not get a chance to practice. I believe that Chris is a very confident guy and will find his stride here real soon."

The 76ers can't afford to wait too long. The team trails Boston in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic division by 2 1/2 games with 21 contests remaining in the season. The Celtics made their own move two weeks ago to acquire a potent big man when they traded for Antoine Walker. Since then, the Celtics have gone 4-1. The 76ers are 3-4 after obtaining Webber.

Some Sneaky Reporting

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has accused ABC reporter Jim Gray of misleading Mavericks' forward Dirk Nowitzki during a live interview in an attempt to get the player to say something negative about former Mavericks guard Steve Nash, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Cuban has called on ABC to suspend Gray and announced that Gray will not be allowed to interview any members of the Mavericks until he apologizes to the team and its fans.

ABC stood behind Gray, saying Cuban's accusations were unfair.

Cuban said that during the Mavericks game with the Houston Rockets on Sunday, Gray told Nowitzki that Cuban and swingman Michael Finley both said that the Mavericks' team chemistry is better now with Nash playing for the Phoenix Suns.

Cuban denied that he or Finley ever made such comments.

Bobblehead Bryant

Fast food chain Carl's Jr., will sell Kobe Bryant bobblehead dolls starting next month, the first time that any company has tried to use him as an endorser since the Los Angeles Lakers' guard was accused of sexual assault in June 2003, according to SportsBusiness Daily.

Bryant, who last week settled a civil suit with the woman who accused him of assaulting her, has lost endorsements worth in the neighborhood of $5 million as a result of the accusations, marketing experts have said.

The criminal case against Bryant was dropped in September when Bryant's accuser declined to go forward. McDonald's and Nutella declined to renew their endorsement deals after Bryant was arrested.

Bryant's bobblehead is being sold as part of a promotion deal that Carl's Jr., struck with the Lakers. The company will sell bobblehead dolls of four other Lakers as well.

Strickland Retiring

Former Washington Wizards guard and 16-year NBA veteran Rod Stickland is retiring, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"I'm done, man," Strickland told the Sentinel. "I mean it this time."

One of the most respected point guards in the game during the 1990s, Strickland, 38, finishes with career averages of 13.2 points and 7.3 assists per game while playing for such teams as the Wizards, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic.

For the past four seasons, Strickland has been signed after the season began by a team in need of guard help, according to the Sentinel. He was signed by the Houston Rockets on Jan. 19 but was released on Feb. 24.

Jackson Invited to Lakers Game

Phil Jackson has been invited to attend a Los Angeles Lakers game later this season by the club's management in the latest sign that the team will try to rehire its former coach, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

Jackson joined Lakers' owner Jerry Buss for dinner last week but did not discuss basketball, according to the paper.

James Has Some Choice Words for Silas

Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James cursed at Cavaliers' coach Paul Silas during the club's lopsided loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The paper reported that the angry exchange between the two men was not their first.

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