From the moment he was traded from the Washington Wizards to the Sacramento Kings in 1998, forward Chris Webber brought an attitude with him that turned the Sacramento Kings from one of the worst teams in the National Basketball Association into a team that has won six consecutive winning seasons and two Pacific Division titles. Last Wednesday, Kings and Webber ended that great relationship.
In a six-player deal, the Kings sent the five-time All-Star along with forwards Matt Barnes and Michael Bradley to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for veteran forwards Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas and forward/center Brian Skinner.
Webber’s departure from the Kings has been something that has been a topic of discussion ever since he got there. Kings’ President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie, rebuilt the small-market team and turned it into a perennial contender. In the last five years, the Kings have a winning percentage of 67 percent, the third best NBA record in that time span going 274-136.
The trade was something that all the Kings from management to the players and coaches said was very difficult to do.
“It’s tough, no one seen it coming,” said guard Mike Bibby, who has been Webber’s teammate the past four years. “We had no idea.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” said Kings head coach Rick Adelman on Thursday before the Kings match-up at Dallas Mavericks. “We’ve had six and a half great years, great experiences. I know everybody talks about winning a championship, everything else. You can’t have a better experience other than winning a championship than I’ve had and Chris has been a major part of that.”
The main reason that the Kings moved Chris Webber, according to what NBA on TNT correspondent David Aldrige reported on Thursday night was because of his high salary. Webber, who was due to make $62 million dollars over the next three years, which was going to take up a good 35 percent of the Kings salary over the next two years.
“They felt like Chris Webber’s trade value was at its absolute maximum right now, he’s got the bad knee,” Aldrige said during TNT NBA Tip-Off show. “Yeah they don’t get great players back (referring to Skinner, Thomas and Williamson), but these are much easier trade they feel if they want to do that down the road then Webber would have been.”
On top of that, Webber who has longed to play for an NBA team that resides in a huge market. He will have that opportunity in Philadelphia along side perennial All-Star guard Allen Iverson.
The bigger question now is, where does this leave the Kings? Well, they have acquired some players who can help them. In Corliss Williamson and Kenny Thomas, they have two guys who can provide double-figures scoring and can provide toughness on the boards.
Williamson, a first-round draft choice of the Kings in 1995, spent his first five years with the Sacramento Kings, before being traded to the Toronto Raptors for Doug Christie in the summer of 2000, according to FOXSports.com. Skinner, who has not played that much this season with the Sixers gives the Kings some quality minutes backing up center Brad Miller.
Besides the factor of Webber’s huge contract, the Kings made this deal to keep their other prime time player Peja Stojakovic, who is a free agent at the end of the next year happy.
The Kings still have a formidable group of players like Bibby, Miller and sharp shooter Peja Stojakovic, who all really stepped and thrived in the 58 games that Webber was out last season while Webber recovered from surgery on his injured knee that he suffered against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals.
They also have Cuttino Mobley, who they acquired from the Orlando Magic in exchange for guard Doug Christie about a month ago.
The Kings (35-21) are 1-1 in the post Chris Webber era, including a 101-99 victory against their former teammate and the Sixers Saturday night in Philadelphia.
They were one game away from the NBA Finals two years ago, but lost in overtime 112-106 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angles Lakers on their home court.
While the team is still a formidable opponent, they clearly are no longer a contender like they were in recent years in the Western Conference. They will have a task on their hands just to make into this year’s playoffs.
“We just have to figure out now how to play better basketball now with a new group and try to make the playoffs,” Stojakovic told reporters on Thursday.