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  Webber Happy to Move On

By Bryan Tucker
WashingtonPost.com Correspondent
Sunday, November 30, 1997; 6 p.m. EST

Post.com Exclusive
With the new MCI Center opening up Tuesday, star forward Chris Webber is not shedding any tears about saying goodbye to US Airways Arena and its emotionally challenged fans.

Webber says he hopes the new arena will be able to not only revitalize the Washington franchise, but also provide a more energetic group of fans.

"We just need a fresh start, a fresh outlook. Hopefully, our crowd will be one that other teams fear that come here to play," said Webber, after Saturday's finale at US Airways. "I hope that the crowd is definitely a sixth man."

The lack of crowd support for the Wizards also bothers Webber's Michigan and Washington teammate, Juwan Howard.

"I agree 110 percent with Chris. I just want to leave it like that and I don't want to say anything to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm not feeling too well and that is a very touchy topic," said Howard.

The crowd is important because of "the things they say to the guys or the tone that they set really helps a team fell comfortable or be uncomfortable and I think we [U.S. Airways Arena] make teams feel more comfortable than uncomfortable," according to Webber.

The loud cheering for Michael Jordan and other NBA stars in the league irritates Webber and he said he used to actually enjoy coming to Landover when he played for Golden State.

"I remember when I was at Golden State I used to love come playing here, the crowd was cheering everything I did," said Webber.

In the Bulls-Wizards game Saturday night, a smattering of boos and cheers greeted Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan when he was introduced first in the Chicago lineup but he quickly won them over at the end of the first half when he made an incredible three-pointer at the half to give the Bulls a 49-47 lead.

"I think when we look in the mirror, we have gone on the road and really played in some pits and have gotten the job done," said Wizards Coach Bernie Bickerstaff. "When we come home, for some reason maybe we take things for granted."

The Wizards are one of two teams that remain winless at home, with Golden State being the other after Saturday night. However, the Warriors are 1-13 overall. The Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors have also won at least one home game, despite having 1-12 and 1-14 overall records respectively.

Webber hopes that MCI Center becomes like the Forum of the L.A. Lakers, who have the only undefeated home record, or the Utah Jazz's Delta Center (7-2). Webber said the reason those teams are so successful at their arenas is because it is a place "where a guy can miss 10 shots in a row, and they are going to still cheer because they know that 11th one is the most important. I just hope they realize that games are won at the end."

"I'm used to being in environments where fans are so crazy that they loved it and we jumped into the crowds after the game. It's just that love and I honestly haven't felt that here and hopefully it can change — I want that," said Webber.

© Copyright 1997 washingtonpost.com

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