Sources Say Webber on Dream Team IV
By Ric Bucher
ORLANDO Washington Wizards forward Chris Webber has been chosen for the U.S. team Dream Team IV for anyone still buying into that label that will compete next summer at the world championships in Athens, league sources confirmed today.
Webber could not be reached for comment, but his agent, Fallasha Erwin, relayed the news and said, "I hope that it's true because he was really excited. This will give him a good push into the season."
The New York Times published a 10-player list in its late editions today and Webber's inclusion on the list was confirmed by other sources. The other nine players named were Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, New York Knicks guard Allan Houston, Charlotte Hornets forward Glen Rice, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Terrell Brandon, Atlanta Hawks forward Christian Laettner, Milwaukee Bucks forward Vin Baker, Seattle SuperSonics guard Gary Payton and Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal.
Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld, who is attending the NBA's meetings here, is a member of the national team selection committee, but he declined to comment on the list's accuracy.
"We were asked not to comment on that and I'm going to respect that," Unseld said. "We're looking to put together a team that one, [Coach Rudy] Tomjanovich is comfortable with and, two, that exemplifies what we want USA Basketball to be all about."
Meanwhile, another summer of labor turmoil is on the horizon. Although the league signed a six-year collective bargaining agreement with the players' union two years ago, the league has an option to renegotiate the pact next summer, NBA assistant commissioner Russ Granik said today. Problems stemming from the three-year rookie salary scale and salary-cap loopholes have Granik and other NBA officials preparing to exercise the option.
"All we can say right now is that it is something we will have to consider, that we feel the salary system may be out of whack," Granik said.
If another contract has to be worked out, Commissioner David Stern conceded it won't be easy to extend the league's record of never having had a season interrupted by labor conflict.
"We remain eternal optimists in the face of reality," Stern said.
A deciding factor could be the case of Portland forward-center Chris Dudley, who opted out of a contract that still had three years and $13 million left to sign a one-year deal worth slightly more than $1 million. Dudley did so to facilitate a trade that would send him to the Knicks for John Wallace. An arbitrator ruled against the league when it claimed that Dudley's decision circumvented the league salary-cap rules. The league, however, plans to appeal that ruling.
Dudley made a similar move to skirt the salary cap several years ago, signing a one-year deal with the Trail Blazers after turning down a much longer and more lucrative offer from the New Jersey Nets. The Blazers then rewarded him with a long-term deal the following year, and the league suspects the Knicks will do the same.
"He chose Portland for the redwoods," said Stern, tongue planted firmly in cheek, "and then chose New York because he wants to try the East Coast and the weather."