Duty may call for Bibby more than Webber

Mike Bibby, not Chris Webber, is the more likely Sacramento King to play for Team USA.

Originally Published: December 2, 2002
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Editor's note: As part of "The Stein Line" every Monday, senior NBA writer Marc Stein gives his take on things in "Slams and Dunks."

Mike Bibby and Chris Webber
APTeam USA will likely have a spot for Mike Bibby, left, and not Chris Webber, right.
Chris Webber, as you know, has expressed interest in representing his country at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Webber, however, floats a potential legal cloud over any team he's around, stemming from the ongoing University of Michigan scandal.

That's why Mike Bibby, not Webber, is said to be the most likely Sacramento King to make the next Team USA squad, which must qualify for the Olympics in regional qualifying in August. Provided Bibby returns from foot surgery resembling the Bibby who tormented the Mavericks and Lakers in last spring's playoffs, he has a good shot at a guard spot.

USA Basketball, in fact, tried to land Bibby as a last-minute replacement for Ray Allen for the team that slumped to sixth place at the World Championships in Indianapolis, but Bibby declined, citing the short notice.

  • Raef LaFrentz has returned to the Mavericks at an ideal time, just when Shawn Bradley's Most Improved Player movement swooned back to normalcy.

    Bradley, over the past five games, has averaged only 5.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 21.4 minutes. Not that his bosses or Mavericks fans are complaining. They fell one win shy of a record-tying 15-0 start, true, but Dallas die-hards don't have to dig too far into the recesses of their memories to recall the team that went 13-69 in 1993-94. That team included Jim Jackson ... and Jamal Mashburn ... and Popeye Jones, who's in his second Mavs stint now. It was even worse the year before: 11-71 in 1992-93, Jackson's holdout-marred rookie season.

    Moral of the story: Dallas can live with a 14-0 start and another ride on the Bradley roller-coaster. Mainly because the center with the flagpole frame definitely did contribute to staking the Mavs to a six-game cushion in the loss column over everyone else in the Midwest Division.

    Jim Jackson
  • Speaking of Jim Jackson, he suddenly looks pretty smart after two months of unemployment. For the second straight season, Jackson rebuffed interest from non-playoff teams to avoid signing with a straggler and winding up as a backup with a straggler looking to develop its youngsters. That's not what he needs for a résumé that features stints with eight different clubs in a span of 10 seasons. Jackson's gamble -- waiting for injuries to create a more attractive opening -- paid off Sunday when the mighty Kings summoned him to fill in for the fallen Hedo Turkoglu.

    Jackson's long-term prospects in Sacto wouldn't appear to be especially good, once Turkoglu (wrist) and Peja Stojakovic (heel) return to full health, but a productive stint with a team as highly regarded as Sacramento would be more valuable for the 32-year-old than the pro-rated veteran minimum salary of $1.03 million. Jackson's solid work for Pat Riley in Miami last season (10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game) apparently wasn't sufficiently enticing to land him a job with a contender to start the season.

  • If you're still reluctant to credit Isiah Thomas for at least a slice of the mojo behind Indiana's 14-2 start, listen to what one opposing coach says of Thomas' influence on Ron Artest: "The guy's a different player from what he was in Chicago. Isiah seems to have reached him. He's playing with an Isiah/Bad Boys mentality. A lot those guys are."

    Scott Layden
  • It's not exactly new territory, but we make the plea anyway: Stand pat, Knicks. Puh-lease don't make a move before Monday's midnight deadline on the Antonio McDyess injury exception ... unless, by some miracle, a promising youngster is offered to fit in the $4.5 million exception slot.

    As we speak, there isn't a single player available in the $4.5 million-and-under range who can make New York's plight less frightful than it already is. Stand pat, Scott Layden. Anything that interferes with the Knicks getting younger or getting to the lottery is yet another expensive mistake.

    Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

    Marc Stein | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
    • Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
    • Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
    • Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics