C-Webb will hurt competition, not Kings
Mess up their frontcourt rotation. Mess up their chemistry. Mess up their offensive flow.
You used to simply hear the one about how the Kings were better without Webber. I thought the Dallas series last spring silenced that theory forever, and I have personally tried to shoot it down, but it has gotten to the point that I need help. So I turned to someone with much more inside-the-Kings knowledge than me.
"Why do people say that (stuff)?" Kings center Vlade Divac offered. "It's so dumb."
Indeed. What makes the Kings so dangerous, besides the quality of their top seven players and the offensive firepower at Rick Adelman's disposal, is their team chemistry. For years it has been just about the best chemistry in the league. And with their interior passing, there is no debate. It is the best in the league.
Guess who is at the heart of all that chemistry and fancy passing?
Right. Besides Divac, it's Webber.
The Kings, furthermore, have an advantage when it comes to working Webber back into the lineup, which will most likely happen after the All-Star break, although still no one can say for sure. The advantage: Sacramento has played without him for long stretches before and knows how to work him back in.
As for those who say the scorching-hot Peja Stojakovic might be slowed down more by Webber's return than any opposing defense, Divac counters by saying: "He'll be better with Chris. Believe me." With the attention Webber commands from opposing defenses, no matter what you think about his supposed go-to guy deficiencies, it's hard to argue.
Another story circulated this week that Divac is done with international basketball. He told me so as well last weekend. I told him I don't believe it.
Although Divac does point out that "my international career ended perfect" -- with a gold medal at the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis -- I question whether he'll be able to resist the temptation of trying to beat a beefed-up Team USA at the Athens Olympics. The other temptation? Team USA is playing an exhibition game in Belgrade before the Olympics, and it's the sort of once-in-a-lifetime occasion Divac will struggle to pass up.
You can believe that Divac, a free agent this summer, is serious when he says he'll retire from the NBA at season's end if Sacramento wins the championship. Or at least take a one-season break from the NBA. Divac turns 36 on Tuesday and says he wants to play at least one full season in Spain or Italy so his children, who have been essentially raised in America, get a chance to experience a full-fledged European lifestyle. "It's probably the only way they'll get to do that," Divac said.
Since we chose to roll out our 20-year tribute to David Stern a week early -- the actual anniversary is Sunday -- here's a bonus view on Stern's legacy from deputy commissioner Russ Granik. Stern probably isn't the best choice to talk about his own legacy, anyway.
"His legacy will be having built the NBA into a great multinational, multicultural global business, which was not in great shape when he took over," Granik said. "I think people look at David and the NBA in the same way as, when I was coming out of school, people looked at Pete Rozelle and the NFL. They're the two guys who took their sports to a whole different level."
Don't know who this Rozelle fellow is, but ... Happy 20th, Commish.
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