But more and more you get the feeling that Chris Webber doesn't want to be Chris Webber. It's the fame that haunts him, not the fortune. He surely doesn't mind the max-contract wealth that basketball has provided. But deep down, Webber is a complementary player trapped in max-contract expectations.

And he's introspective enough to let it eat him alive. This, after all, is a man who speaks eloquently about black history and who has built one of the country's finest collections of black artifacts and art. Here is a deep thinker — maybe too deep to be a franchise-changing, clutch-shooting superstar.

No shame there. Where does it say that just because you're born with extraordinary ability, you also get Michael Jordan's tunnel-vision rage to win?

The late, great Jim Murray, whose columns were as insightful as they were hilarious, once told me: "Hit me a fly ball with two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series, and I'm going to have four or five of the longest seconds of my life. I'm going to think about how I could be forever remembered as the guy who dropped this fly ball. And I'm going to drop it."

That's an underlying reason the Webber trade wasn't as great for the Sixers and awful for the Kings as initially portrayed.

This trade definitely is a burden for Webber, who now must try and fail to live up to even greater expectations. Now, sigh, he's supposed to be The Answer for The Answer.

Yes, Webber provides Iverson with the perennial All-Star teammate he hasn't had. Yet as he nears his 32nd birthday on Wednesday, what exactly is Webber? A finesse forward? A point center? A big tease?

No player can build you up and let you down quite like Webber. Oh, what a tangled C-Webb the Sixers weave. In the end, they'll realize they can't win without or with him.

Petrie decided he had a better chance without Webber. Webber could take the Kings to the threshold of greatness, but he didn't have the confidence or the killer will to carry Sacramento over it.

It became painfully obvious that the Kings were a better team, offensively and defensively, while Webber was rehabbing his knee last season. The offense had much better flow and rhythm, and Stojakovic turned into an MVP front-runner. When Webber returned, his knee never was quite right, and he turned into a ground-bound, ball-eating lane-clogger. If the ball went in to Webber, time stopped. And the ball did not come back out.

But this season, Webber had found a new comfort zone as a facilitator. The Kings' offense was running through him instead of ending with him. He had four triple-doubles. He was averaging about 21 points, almost 10 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

Still, Petrie wasn't buying it. Especially not for the $62 million the Kings would owe Webber over the next three seasons. Petrie knew all too well how little passion and intensity Webber brought to the defensive end. Petrie knew better than anyone how Webber usually runs from the ball in pressure situations, especially in the postseason.



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