Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber and Washington Wizards forward Michael Smith stood toe-to-toe, jawing at each other in not-so-nice terms, as they set themselves for a third-quarter jump ball at Sacramento's end of the court. The tussle over a loose ball preceded the heated exchange last night.
As the official tossed the ball into the air, Webber batted it to center Vlade Divac, who turned and made an easy layup while being fouled by Washington's Aaron Williams. Webber, traded from Washington to Sacramento before last season, raced down the court and motioned to the MCI Center crowd as if to say, "Take that."
Cheers rained down.
Webber, for the second consecutive season, recorded a triple-double in his return to Washington and again led the Kings to victory. This time it was a 114-104 defeat of the Wizards before a season-best 19,220 at MCI Center.
On the night the NBA officially awarded Washington the 2001 All-Star Game [Story, Page D9], Webber put on an all-star performance with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. It was his second triple-double of the season and 10th of his career. More pertinent, it was his fifth against teams that traded him.
"You could see it on [Webber's face] and you could see it out on the floor," Kings guard Nick Anderson said. "He was ready to play tonight and Michael Smith helped him get riled up just a tad bit more."
Said Webber: "It wasn't like it was me against the Wizards. Michael Smith wasn't even here when I was here. . . . This was a big game for us."
Added Wizards Coach Gar Heard: "They kept him out there to get [the triple-double]. That's what they wanted him to have. That's fine."
Webber did not come out of the game until 1 minute 29 seconds remained, even though the game was well out of reach of the Wizards and he had secured his triple-double with 5 minutes 42 seconds left on an assist to Predrag Stojakovic.
Since being dealt to Sacramento in exchange for Mitch Richmond (team-high 23 points) and departed forward Otis Thorpe, Webber and the Kings have flourished. The Wizards, meanwhile, have floundered. Webber led the league in rebounding last season, and has the Kings off to an 11-3 start.
The Wizards (5-13) have lost three games in a row and begin a daunting four-game West Coast road trip this week. The Wizards open the stretch Monday at Utah, then play the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs.
"We've got to find a way to weather the storm and it's getting to be a hurricane with the four games coming up," Heard said.
The team met for a half-hour after the game--locker rooms usually open to the media after 10 minutes--and players and coaches spoke their minds, Heard said. There were no heated confrontations and players and coaches said there were only suggestions as to what this team needs to do to get on track.
"I'm frustrated but everyone has got to keep their head up and keep playing," Smith said. "That's all we can do. There are five people on the court. It's a team effort and everyone needs to work together as a team."
Heard said there will be no lineup changes.
As has been the case with most of their opponents, the Kings used deft passing and an unstoppable transition game to defeat the Wizards. Sacramento scored 68 points in the lane and outscored Washington 27-15 in transition, drawing at least as many cheers as the home team. Many of the fans remaining at game's end booed the Wizards heartily.
With the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter, the game's biggest ovation came when point guard Jason Williams lobbed the ball over his head to a slashing Tony Delk, who scored a routine layup.
Wizards power forward Aaron Williams had another solid game, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Guard Rod Strickland had 13 points.
Center Ike Austin, who broke his nose in Friday's two-point loss at Toronto, started the game but played only 20 minutes, getting nine points and six rebounds. He wore a protective mask but after taking an inadvertent blow to the head from Divac that caused his nose to bleed, Austin left the game for good 47 seconds into the second half.
Kings forward Corliss Williamson had a season-high 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Divac had 14 points and seven rebounds. Anderson added 12 points and Delk scored a season-high 13.
For the most part, the second half was academic as the Wizards got no closer than eight after Aaron Williams's tip-in with 53.9 seconds left in the third period made the score 83-75. The Kings entered the fourth quarter up 88-77.
The Kings ran an extended layup drill in the first half, scoring 46 points in the lane en route to a 61-49 halftime lead. Sacramento made 55 percent of its shots and converted 14 Washington turnovers into 15 points.
Wizards Note: Team trainer Kevin Johnson plans to make a custom-fitted mask for Austin to replace the one he wore last night. It has not been determined how long Austin will wear the mask.