Updated: March 8, 2006, 8:03 AM ET

SPECIAL MIDWEEK EDITION: On the ball with C-Webb

He expects the Philadelphia 76ers to overtake the New Jersey Nets and win the Atlantic Division.

He expects to play four or five more years on that creaky knee.

He expects your skepticism about the knee and his relationship with Allen Iverson.

In return, Chris Webber simply expects you to hear him out as he addresses all of the above and more. Averaging 19.8 points and 9.8 boards -- but only 3.3 assists -- for a team that was one game under .500 when it got him and which presently sits at 30-29, Webber stopped for a brief chat in Dallas recently, just days after commemorating the one-year anniversary of his trade from Sacramento to the Sixers.

The highlights:

Webber on the perception he and Iverson don't mesh well:

"I heard that more in the beginning of the year, but I don't pay any attention to it. I don't think people understand our relationship. I live five houses away from Allen. I still respect the fact the he brought me here. He knows that I want the ball in my hands -- but not when he has it. There's enough to go around.

"But when he doesn't have the ball, I feel I should have it, because even if I'm not feeling up to it, I can get Kyle [Korver] good shots or other guys good shots. I just want to be able to get the most out of my passing. I'm not going to lead the league in scoring. I've told Allen I want him to average more than he is now.

"When I got here, Kyle told me that he wanted to play like Peja [Stojakovic did with Webber in Sacramento]. Me, too! I just want to bring my knowledge and be able to use it, that's all. Thirteen years of playing against everybody from Hakeem [Olajuwon] to Moses Malone to now, I think I can bring a unique perspective and Allen knows this. We talk about it all the time. It's not like it's a secret."

On the source of his well-documented frustration this season:

"The thing that bothers me is that I come from winning. Losing is what frustrates me. Being on the East Coast and losing, where it's not as good as the [Western Conference], that frustrates me. When I want to be the distributor sometimes and I don't get the ball, that frustrates me. But playing with a guy like Allen? Like I said, I don't think people understand our relationship."

On the Sixers exploring the possibility of trading Iverson:

"When all the [trade] rumors were going around [last month], I was saying, 'Don't leave me by myself here without him.' I don't know if he was really worried, but I do know he doesn't want to go."

On what the Sixers need to shake their up-and-down ways:

"I think anything can happen in the playoffs. But I've got to give guys like Andre [Iguodala] a lot of credit, and John Salmons, because they've been thrown into the fire without a veteran [swingman] to show them the ropes and all the shortcuts. A guy that has been in the wars and has been in that situation, so they've made their mistakes. It's a lot of trial by error right now. And I'm not putting the onus on them, but I think that's what we're finding and defining.

On the state of his surgically repaired left knee at 33:

"Actually, truthfully, my body feels wonderful . . . to be able to rebound this year and to be able to jump off one leg. I can't wait until this summer. This is the first year fully healed, and then in the summer I can take that workout to a different level. I know it's just talk and you have to show it, but I feel really good. I'm getting better and I can go four more years, five more years -- strong. I know I was really athletic at one time, but I can still get to the hole, still dunk, still do things."

On his future alongside AI:

"For me and him, we look at this as an opportunity to get in there and win. He's very popular, but we both feel the same way -- not everybody wants him and I definitely feel the same way. We try not to preach it because we don't want to make a big story out of this until we win a championship, but me and him hang out so much it's ridiculous. I look at him like my little brother and I've got to protect him. I don't want to make this a tear-jerker, but that's my dawg."

• Talk back to ... Marc Stein | The Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: February 27 | 28 | March 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7


Can't Give Clips The Slip

Kevork Djansezian/AP Photo
Tim Duncan and the Spurs were thrown for a loss Tuesday by the Clippers in the second game of an L.A. back-to-back, leaving San Antonio in a tie with Dallas for the West's top record at 47-13.


Rank Comments
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Readers respond to the latest edition of the ESPN.com NBA Power Rankings:

Dan Worthington: Your comment about KG not making the playoffs again? He's the most over-hyped, over-compensated player in the history of the NBA. Ralph Sampson had a great playoff career compared to this guy. Remember the time Ralph's Rockets beat the Lakers and went to the Finals? Without Sam Cassell carrying the Wolves one year in the playoffs, KG would have exactly zero playoff series wins. Don't dismiss this thought. Name one other player who has been paid close to $200 million that is even close to this unproductive.

Greg (London, UK): It's a travesty that the Nets remain in the top 10. They have one win in the last five games (OT vs. Toronto). They have the least effective bench in the league. They play in the second-weakest division. And they start the less-than-imposing duo of Jason Collins and Nenad Krstic. There's no way the Nets should be ahead of Memphis, Cleveland and the Clippers.

Kevin (Portland, Ore.): The Parker-over-Diaw mistake was only your 73rd mistake this year, down from 106 at this time last year.

Curtis (Bronx, NY): And you forgot to name Larry Brown as the worst and most disappointing coach of the year.

Jake (Pikeville, KY): Let's see here. Last week you had the Mavs in the top spot and the Pistons at No. 2. Both teams lost two games during the week, but somehow Dallas dropped below Detroit. It must have been because the Pistons lost to better teams, right? Wait . . . Dallas lost to your new top two teams and Detroit lost to the Lakers and the Nuggets? You didn't even explain it in your introductory paragraphs. So what gives?

Ed's note: Read my Stock Report in Box 8 and you'll know what gives.



Slams And Dunks
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I could understand Chris Mullin's reluctance to gamble on Ron Artest. Golden State was widely regarded as the Northern California franchise that would land Artest because Mully possesses more young and desirable trade chips than most GMs, but I endorsed the argument that it was better to save those chips for the pursuit of a more stable big name because Ron-Ron is too risky.

(Unless Artest's first 20 games in Sacramento have convinced you that his baggage is suddenly stored away safely.)

However . . .

No one will understand if Mike Montgomery really makes it to next season, as Mully has suggested with this week's Blame Me invitation.

I frankly can't see how Monty makes it to the end of this season -- this week? -- given how meekly Golden State is finishing a campaign that began at 12-6.

The Warriors are 13-28 since that start and are thus headed for the club's 12th successive season out of the playoffs. They're 8-20 in 2006. They were beaten Wednesday night in Atlanta, 113-106, to fall 5 games behind the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Lakers with 22 to play. Add all that up and you have a team miles away from the group that finished a hope-generating 18-10 last season after acquiring Baron Davis.

You have a team that has stopped responding to its second-year coach from the college ranks, if it ever did. You have a coach who has never displayed the command of his NBA team that he had at Stanford.

The Warriors were being lampooned for their undisciplined play and overreliance on the 3-pointer even at 12-6. Now you're looking at a roster full of youngsters that appears to be checking out early and thus crying out for an authority figure.


The Warriors' other problem?

As suggested about a month ago in a Midweek Dime devoted to Don Nelson, Golden State can't simply dismiss Montogomery and pursue the most decorated coach available. Nellie is the last coach to get the Warriors to the playoffs, but he parted with owner Chris Cohan on nasty terms in 1995 -- terms which almost certainly ruled out a reunion.

Now you can ditch the "almost." Nelson confirmed the above suspicion in an on-air visit last week with our man Randy Galloway of ESPN Radio in Dallas. Nellie, who turns 66 in May, didn't rule out the return to coaching that I and several long-time associates and peers expect as early as next season . . . but he did rule out Oakland.

Regarding the Warriors, Nelson said: "Chris Cohan is still the owner there and he sued me after I left there. I'm not about to go work for him. I don't know where all this stuff is coming from. No. 1, they have a coach. And just because I love Chris Mullin and he likes me, that doesn't mean I'm going to go work there."

Regarding coaching in general, Nelson said: "I'm not planning on coming back, but I don't know the future. I just don't. I wish I did, but I don't know what's going to happen."


Two footnotes to all this Warriors talk:

Check around on the Internet to find the priceless picture of Nellie at the Oscars, a few rows behind his new pal George Clooney. (In case you've forgotten, Nelson is presently coaching a fictional NBA expansion team from San Diego in a proposed TV series directed by Clooney.)

My NBA Fastbreak colleague Paul Silas probably makes more sense as a Montgomery successor than his ex-Celtics teammate anyway. Silas isn't just a veteran coach; he's an Oakland native who has a successful history with Davis after their days in Charlotte and New Orleans.


Film Session

Gilbert Arenas crushed Boston twice earlier this season with late free throws. The Wiz banger had a chance to finish them again with a jumper in regulation Tuesday. When he didn't, Paul Pierce had the final say at the OT buzzer.

Pierce Wins It

Remembering Kirby

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt
Wolves forward Kevin Garnett, right, used his footwear to pay tribute to his friend and former Minnesota Twins player Kirby Puckett, whom Garnett said was "like an older brother." Puckett died Monday.


Extreme Behavior
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Tuesday's Best
Hawks G Joe Johnson: Don't feel great about bypassing Ryan Gomes' 27 points and nine boards in Boston's win at Washington, but Johnson won a duel of 42-point games with Golden State's Jason Richardson in Atlanta's 113-106 triumph over Golden State.

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Tuesday's Worst
Pacers G Fred Jones: If any Pacer personifies his team's performance in a 15-point home loss to the Knicks, it's Jones for missing all eight of his shots in 22 minutes.

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Quote of the Day
"Guys that say they don't like playing against their former teams are definitely lying."
-- New York's Jalen Rose, who scored 21 points in Knicks' win at Indy in his first game at Conseco Fieldhouse in a New York uniform.

See how all 149 who played stacked up



Stock Report
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A look at the most active movers, upward and downward, in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings:

Highest Rise: No. 18 Minnesota Timberwolves
This was a default promotion if there ever was one. Minnesota posted a 2-1 week that included a comfortable home win over New Jersey, but that's typically not enough for a four-spot rise from No. 22.

But with a Stephen Jackson layup Sunday cutting into Philadelphia's upward mobility, the most impressive teams in the latest batch of games were San Antonio and Phoenix, who didn't have much room for advancement because they were placed in the upper reaches.

Steepest Fall: No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs were actually one of five teams to drop three slots -- along with New Orleans/Oklahoma City, Washington, Houston and Boston -- but this is obviously the slip folks are talking about.

And while it's true that Dallas lost to the two hottest teams in the league last week, thereby convincing plenty of Dallas-based users that they shouldn't have fallen lower than No. 3, Detroit's long-term outlook was the tiebreaker. The Pistons might be sorting through their roughest patch of the season, but the committee (of one) simply couldn't drop a team with Detroit's proven title-worthiness to No. 4.

A championship pedigree has always been considered here as a source of "power" in itself and remains a difference-maker for the committee in these situations, as seen frequently with the three-peat Lakers and the placement they received during slumps.

Marc Stein's Complete Power Rankings



One On One . . . To Five
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Five questions with Suns forward Tim Thomas:

Q: Are you the happiest guy in the NBA right now?

A: Look at me, man. What do you think?

Q: Twenty points in your first game? Does the Suns' offense really make it that easy?

A: Hell, yeah. Without a doubt. From the outside looking in, you know [Steve] Nash is good, but now being a part of it, it's unbelievable. He draws so much attention. He thinks pass-first. You get open and he's going to find you. I've never really been with a point guard like that. I've always played with point guards that are really two guards.

Q: Your reputation has taken some hits because of what happened in Chicago. How do you fix that?

A: When you're in a situation like that and the team tells you to stay away, people think you're a bad guy. I'm not that type of person. I did nothing wrong. I was traded [from New York] to Chicago and, being a veteran player, I wanted to play. It was obvious [that Bulls coach Scott Skiles had no plans to play Thomas], so I was just hoping that Chicago wouldn't trade me, because then I have to go wherever they send me. I was definitely worried they were going to trade me eventually. For them to buy me out and me having the option to sign where I want, that's all you could want.

Q: What did you do with the time off?

A: I used it to be with my family. And I just tried to stay in shape. I practiced with Villanova, I practiced with my high school team. I did a lot of two a days, running early and running late. A lot of shooting. But it was three and a half months. That's a long time.

Q: And now you're suddenly starting for the team with the fourth-best record in the league . . . as the tallest healthy player in Mike D'Antoni's rotation.

A: I'm just grateful to be in this situation. It's an athletic team that runs and guns and I've always wanted to play for a team like that.



Chat Excerpt
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Brad (Dallas, TX): Dirk Nowitzki struggled in the playoffs last year. This past week, Bruce Bowen made him look human again. Is it Dirk's fault or is Avery Johnson not making the right adjustments to get Dirk going in the big games?

Marc Stein: Bowen does that to Kobe Bryant sometimes, too. It happens. But "fault" is the wrong word here. The problem is personnel. The Mavs have made some successful changes post-Nash to get younger, more athletic and more defensive-minded, but they still lack a guy who can create easy shots for his teammates . . . besides Nowitzki.

Most nights, Dirk doesn't need the help any more. He has been chewing up smaller guys this season after his playoff struggles. But there is always going to be a defender or two who gives even the best of the best problems. Bowen and Marion are those guys for Nowitzki, so Dirk would benefit greatly against those two if another Mav could pick-and-roll properly and cause problems.

But the Mavs simply don't have anyone who can regularly create an easy shot when Dirk needs one. Devin Harris was injured and didn't play against the Spurs or Suns, but he doesn't do that yet anyway.

So it probably will take an offensive tweak from Avery Johnson in the playoffs to put Dirk in different spots against those teams. In the long term, Dallas will either need Harris to develop those skills or import another PG (hello, Sam Cassell) to help with that.

See the full Marc Stein chat transcript Insider



 

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