AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Knowing he had done nothing to write home about -- even though he could have written something and home delivered it himself, being back in The D and all -- Chris Webber implored everyone afterward not to rush to judgment.
C-Webb steps into trouble zone
He produced a line that was nothing special -- 1-for-5 shooting, 2 points, five rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in 17 minutes -- for a team that hasn't done anything special for nearly a month, unless you consider it something special to go nearly four whole weeks without a victory over a winning team.
No, Webber was eager to have folks write off this 100-99 loss to the Utah Jazz as merely a getting-acquainted-with-you game for him and his new Detroit Pistons teammates, and you know what? He probably has a point.
Still . . .
There was so much that met the eye that just didn't seem right, we're going to disregard his advice and judge this one like we were Judge Judy -- quick-tempered, mean-spirited and caustic.
And before we get to a dissection of Webber's game, including the flat arc on his jumper, his slow feet on defense and the absence of anything remotely resembling a sprint from a pair of legs that had been resting for nearly a month, we're going to change the subject to what appears to be a growing note of discord and disharmony -- aw, heck, let's just call it hate -- between Rasheed Wallace and coach Flip Saunders.
At one point late in the third quarter during a timeout, nearly everyone on the Pistons' bench turned and stared at Sheed as he prematurely broke from the huddle and walked to the scorers' table to await the resumption of play.
Now Wallace has been doing this for years, but on this occasion, judging from the looks on the Pistons' faces, there was more to it. Webber even walked over and said something to Wallace, who replied with a shake of the head and the type of disgusted look you get from someone who doesn't want to be told to calm down or to make peace.
And when the fourth quarter came, Wallace was once again unable to control himself, drawing a technical foul with five minutes remaining for continuing to argue a foul call, ultimately earning himself a seat on the bench for the final 2:27 as Saunders went with a closing lineup of Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, Carlos Delfino, Lindsey Hunter and Tayshaun Prince. That move left a gaping hole in the Pistons' interior defense, and the Jazz exploited it by scoring three of their final four buckets in the paint (where they scored 58 points) to stay ahead the rest of the way.
"You know, we've got to be smarter. We've got a lot of games that we've given points away with technical fouls down the stretch, and we've got to bite our lip. I'd say in most games where we've gotten technical fouls, we've lost. And in games we haven't gotten them, we've probably won. And in close games, you can't afford that. You just have to bite your lip and let it go, and we're not doing that," Saunders said.
It should be noted that Saunders made that comment unsolicited as he closed his postgame press conference.
Wallace did not comment after the game, although he did throw out the word "quagmire" with an f-bomb modifier to no one in particular as the media waited by Webber's locker.
"You never judge anything off of one time," Webber said, explaining how he tried to defer to teammates and wanted to be "non-noticeable" in his first game, all the while assuring the assembled horde that all would be well -- and fun even --before it's all said and done.
And while the Pistons certainly played with a higher degree of energy when Webber was in the game and benefited from the one part of his game -- passing -- that has not significantly deteriorated, they'll need to sustain that energy over the rest of the season when the ball is in Webber's hands. Why? Because every time he had the ball and none of his teammates were moving, their possessions ended with turnovers or missed jumpers. By C-Webb himself.
Heck, Nazr Mohammed (zero minutes) can do that to. But he's out of a job now and apparently on the block, and the Pistons are entering a transition phase in which they'll eventually work C-Webb into the starting five.
So this thing will evolve, but it also will be judged -- fairly or unfairly -- along the way.
And though it is indeed unfair to assess this signing in absolutes so soon, there will come a time when Webber's homecoming will get the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down.
When, I asked Webber, might that time come?
"People are going to pass judgment tonight and tomorrow, but I've been playing for a long time and I know that comes with the territory. But hopefully at the end of the year we'll see whether we accomplish our goal, and that'll be the time. Today is not the time. I just want to play with these guys, they're great players, feel them out and see where I fit in. You can't see where you fit in by forcing anything."
We'll agree with him on that one.
But we're going to judge this one with full knowledge that we're being premature, and we'll say this: Webber might help, but the Pistons have a whole lot that ain't working right, and once the Webber brouhaha dies down the focus will rightfully come back to Flip vs. Sheed, a feud that even Webber could see appears to be getting out of hand.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant (34 points, eight assists) would not be denied by Tim Duncan and the Spurs, taking a 100-96 win in San Antonio. Nine other Lakers contributed in ways great and small, led by Vlad Radmanovic's 3-for-3 night from beyond the arc.
Fresh cause for [injury] concern? Tracy McGrady scoffed at the mere suggestion. He called this first real setback Tuesday in his latest comeback "nothing major" and insisted that it was increased defensive attention from Dallas -- not his back or fatigue from carrying an offense that was getting scoring from almost nowhere else -- that prevented his being in a "zone like that" from producing, say, 60 points.
Jeff Van Gundy left little doubt that the club, or at least the coach, has not stopped worrying about McGrady's health just because he's been so spry lately, ever since discovering Waco-based rehab specialist John Patterson.
"With his situation," Van Gundy said of McGrady and his chronic back woes, "I always consider it day-to-day."
I don't see this deal making either a team to fear, but both are idling around the .500 mark and at least get a shot in the arm.
Diogu is the lone impact player in the deal who's yet to reach his potential. He could prove to be the most valuable player in the trade, especially given that he has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal after this one.
If Diogu can become a significant low-post scorer for Indiana, it is a nice beginning to the next generation of Pacers basketball.
Welcoming C-Webb with a Sheed T party
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Suns center Amare Stoudemire swats the shot of Houston's Juwan Howard during the first quarter of the 100-91 win, the first this season in which neither Yao Ming nor Tracy McGrady played for the Rockets.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
The 6-8 second-year forward has had trouble getting minutes in Nelson's perimeter-oriented, smallball-friendly system. But while he's averaged just 13.1 minutes a game in 17 appearances, Diogu has played brilliantly when given the chance.
Per 40 minutes, his numbers jump off the page -- 22.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He's shooting 53 percent from the floor and 79.6 percent from the line, with the last number particularly important because he draws so many fouls in the low post. Overall, his PER of 18.8 is easily the highest of any player in the trade.
Based on his rookie season stats from a year ago, this season's numbers don't seem like a fluke. Diogu's rookie year PER of 15.8 also beats the 2006-07 rating of anyone else in the deal, as his percentages were nearly identical and his 40-minute numbers (18.8 points, 8.9 boards) weren't too far off.
So why didn't Diogu play more? Nelson's system obviously had a lot to do with it, but so did Diogu's defense. He can block shots, but he's a bit short for a power forward and, like most other young players, he struggles at that end of the floor. Paired with another developing big man in Andris Biedrins, Diogu had nobody to cover for his mistakes, so it was easier in many cases to leave him on the pine.
I suppose that I still have to pick a team that "won" this one, so I have to go with Golden State at first glance, mainly because the Warriors were able to move two albatross contracts (Dunleavy's ranking worse than Murphy's) without being forced to part with Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Mickael Pietrus or even Matt Barnes . . . and selfishly because Nellie has a history of getting beaucoup production from guys named Sarunas (see: Marciulionis).
To be swayed back in Indiana's direction would require knowing that Diogu definitely will turn out to be a player . . . or knowing how O'Neal's future will play out, with JO and management still on course for an end-of-season date to re-assess their futures together . . . or knowing for certain that the Pacers could now move Dunleavy to the Clippers for Corey Maggette. Informed sources in L.A. insist that the Clips won't do that deal even if Clips coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. keeps lobbying for it.
Largest trades in NBA history:
-- ESPN Research