Chris Webber's retirement: Watching him shuffle up and down the court for only nine games and then disappear indefinitely when his troublesome left knee started acting up again sure made it seem like this was The End, but now it's officially official: Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III has retired from the NBA. I'm not going to say that Webber was one of the greatest power forwards of all time -- in my book, he's way down the list behind guys like Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, and Bob Pettit, just to name a few -- nor am I going to discuss his stats (20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG in 15 seasons) or his accomplishments (Rookie of the Year, five All-Star appearances, four inclusions on the All-NBA First or Second Team). But he was, without question, a fantastic player who enjoyed a long and dramatic career.
More than that, though, he was special to me in a very real and personal sense. I got to watch him play twice during his final year at Michigan, and the beginning of his professional career just so happened to coincide with the halcyon days during which my NBA fanaticism and naiveté was probably at its peak. Basketball players were still like superheroes to me, and even plain old regular season games seemed to carry heavy meaning, not just in the standings but in the game of life (thanks in part to those theatrical intros Bob Costas did for The NBA on NBC). Some of my most treasured college memories involve sitting around my dorm room and watching games on a 13-inch TV with my roommate and best friend, and Chris Webber is part of those memories. We saw Webber throw down his behind-the-back dunk on Sir Charles as it happened, and we also watched it live when Barkley got his 56-point, 14-rebound revenge in the playoffs. The NBA was never more fun for me, either before or since.
So while I'm glad it's over -- because it was pretty obvious that Webber was finished -- I'm sad, too. I'm going to miss him: The hook shots, the passes, the drama. It kind of feels like another part of my youth just disappered forever.
Chris Webber's reason for retirement:In Webber's own words: "Rehab is so hard. So monotonous, so boring. I really didn't want to try to rehab and come back this season because I don't think that's possible." And doesn't that statement just sort of epitomize the most frustrating aspect of Webber's career? The idea that there was more there and he simply didn't have the heart and/or strength of will to make it happen. Maybe rehabbing the absolute living hell out of his knee wouldn't have changed anything, but mabye it would have...? But we'll never know. Just like we'll never know whether the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings might have won the title if only Webber wouldn't have gotten a case of the yips during all the close games. Sometimes playing The What If Game can be fun. But as it pertains to Webber and his career, it's just painful. And kind of depressing.
Phoenix Suns: How do you shoot 56 percent as a team and lose by 20? Well, you must 1. let your opponent shoot 52 percent, 2. get outrebounded 41-27 (including 17-4 on the offensive glass), and 3. commit 21 turnovers. Unfortunately for the Phoenix Suns, they did all three of those things, and they did it against the best team in the league. And the Celtics really don't give up that kind of margin of error.
Shaq versus Pat Riley: Ever notice how often Shaq always gets in these little Quote Feuds with former coaches and teammates? The latest War of the Words came after Shaq made the following statement about his new home in the Valley of the Sun: "I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys. We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again." Of course, these comments only served to depress old Sad Sack Riley. "It's sad that he says those things. We shared so much here, together, for three years, good and bad, 3 1/2 years. I just think it's sad that he's got to do that." Sadder than making Shaq spend his golden years playing alongside Ricky Davis and Mark Blount? I don't think so, Riles. When told of Riley's response, The Big Expletive-slinger said, "I don't give a shit how he interpreted it." After being reminded that the reporters couldn't use that quote because he cussed, Shaq said, "Sure you can. You can quote me, brother. You can put an 's,' then the tic-tac-toe, the 'at' sign and then the other symbols." He may no longer be the MDE, but he is and will always be the MQE (Most Quotable Ever).
Sam Cassell: He worked like hell all season to make it to Boston, and now...he's not playing so well. Sam-I-Am scored only 2 points on 1-for-4 shooting in only six minutes of PT last night. His field goal percentage has dropped from 45 percent to 33 percent since joining the Celtics, and his PER has plummetted from 16.9 to 4.8. Boston signed him to be a backup, and he says he's fine with it, but Cassell has always and will always work best as a big-minute player. So right now, his impact on the team is negligible at best.
Chicago Bulls: Ouch. I bet their prostate is pretty sore today.
Larry Hughes: The line: 3 points on 1-for-9 shooting. I guess he's jealous of how poorly Wally Szczerbiak has been playing for the Cavs. After all, wrecking Cleveland's season has been his job the last couple years, and that has to be like watching somebody else not satisfy your ex-wife in bed, only he had really cool hair. Or something.
Drew Gooden: Remember all that smack Gooden was talking after Tuesday night's 31-point, 16-rebound performance against the Hawks? Well, here's a sample: "I don't want to sound cocky, but I think I possess everything. I feel like I can pass, block shots, play great defense, play help defense, shoot threes. I believe that I can do it all.'' He also hinted that LeBron James had been holding him back in Cleveland. Well, one night later, Mr. "I can do it all" didn't do much of anything, scoring 2 points (0-for-5), grabbing 8 rebounds, and committing 3 turnovers against the 76ers. And that thud you just heard was Gooden crashing back down to earth.
Chris Paul's nicknaming skills: Last night, after David West hit a long jumper to bury the Cavaliers, Paul dubbed West "The 17-foot assassin." That nickname is both awesome and terrifying, for reasons I choose not to put into words. But if West is forced to retire early due to some catastrophic injury, it sounds like he has a pretty promising future in the porn industry.
John Hollinger: I can't let this go for some reason. As I keep repeating like an annoying broken record, Hollinger used his PER numbers to "prove" that the trade that brought Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and Joe Smith to Cleveland was a "big-time win" for the Cavaliers. Last night, the big timers combined for 12 points (6-for-18), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers, and 1 DNP-CD (for Wallace). And those numbers are pretty consistent with what we've seen out of that bunch since the trade. Not exactly big-time, is it?
Chauncey Billups, quote machine: After losing to the Toronto Raptors, Billups had these things to say: "We're coming down the home stretch now, 11 games left. You want to start playing with some consistency. Our thing is not the division or the East. Our thing is the whole thing. That's the way we think." First off, it's usually a bad idea to wait until the last 11 games to start working on your consistency. Second, I'm all for thinking big, but looking past opponents has been one of the Pistons' biggest problems over the last couple seasons. You'd think their leader would want to address that, you know?
Toronto Raptors: Yes, they beat the Pistons (who were without Rip Hamilton), but what's up with putting T.J. Ford back into the starting lineup? The guy's been pouting and sulking for weeks. When did we start rewarding players for bad behavior? Uh, last night, I guess. Supposedly, Jose Calderon volunteered to return to the bench for the good of the team and coach Sam Mitchell allowed it. Frankly, I don't care that they won. This is a bad idea. Calderon is the best PG for this team, and Mitchell should have insisted he remain in the starting lineup. I don't see this ending well. But hey, maybe I'm wrong.
Miami versus New York: This was maybe the second-best game of the night, behind the Hornets/Cavs game. But on the other hand, seeing the Knicks struggle to end their seven-game home losing streak against a team that had to sign a mind-boggling eight D-Leaguers just to fill out their roster is kind of sad.
Tim Thomas: He went scoreless (0-for-4) in over 35 minutes of lack-tion. He is almost seven feet tall, right? Just checking.
Tracy McGrady, quote machine: After leading his team to victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, T-Mac let us in on the clutchtastic inner workings of his superstar mind: "The fourth quarter, usually the best player has got to step up and lead the team. I just couldn't afford for us to lose this game, so I had to impose my will on it." Okay, okay. Good stuff. But I'd save a little of that brain juice for the playoffs if I were you.
San Antonio Spurs: After seeing how Luis Scola has been playing lately -- he had 18 points and 18 rebounds last night -- do you think they ever feel a slight pang of regret? Because they should. They really should.
Sacramento Kings: They barely escaped with a 107-106 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. At home. I know they suffered a lot of injuries earlier this season, but everybody looks healthy to me. So what's the excuse now? [Insert "Any NBA team can beat any other NBA team" quote here.]
Los Angeles Lakers: This game looked like such a gimme on paper that I didn't think twice about it before I saw the final score: Bobcats 108, Lakers 95. And the game was played in L.A.? Holy Schnikies. Bad loss. It dropps the Lakers into a tie (with the Rockets and Spurs) for the second-best record in the Western Conference, one full game behind the New Orleans Hornets. And if you thought the Hornets would be leading the West this late in the season, you're a damn, dirty liar. Tell me Chris Paul doesn't deserve some serious MVP consideration.
Kobe Bryant: He got burned by Jason Richardson (34 points, 10 rebounds) and then got ejected late in the fourth quarter for bitching about a foul call. His league-leading technical foul total is now at 15...just one away from an automatic one-game suspension. Mind you, Mamba's two technicals came in a 29-second span of the fourth quarter after the game has been pretty much decided (the 'Cats were leading 100-86 with 3:40 to play). Kind of a pointless and careless thing to do, all things considered. Especially if he ends up with another technical and a suspension. The Lakers can't afford that right now. There's too much at stake.
Phil Jackson, quote machine: You can almost always count on Phil to spout a little gibberish after a game, especially when his team loses. Last night was no exception. "Well, I may look like I'm here to explain something, but I have nothing to explain. I can't explain it, so don't ask me any questions. It just looked like we were out of character, tremendously out of character, in more ways than one --irrational play at times, inconsistent at best, but just some poor judgments, poor decisions." When a reporter asked him about Kobe's ejection, he just smiled and left the interview room.
I mean, "Harris, Nets pour it on Pacers from several angles"? That sounds more than just vaguely suggestive, don't you think?
Update! Indiana Pacers: Basketbawful reader Carlo called me out on this omission, and he was right. "You forgot to mention how the Pacers let Josh Boone score 26 points against them. or how they let Vince grab 14 boards! Hell, you should mention how they let the NETS score 124 on them! And these guys are fighting for a playoff spot? Pathetic." Don't forget Devin Harris and his career-high 15 assists. Yeah. You're right. Pathetic. [Basketbawful sheds a tear for his home-state Pacers]
Update! Charlott's technical foul shooting: Basketbawful reader Wild Yams pointed the following out: "Speaking of technicals, the Bobcats technical FT shooting should probably get some mention, since they missed all three of them last night. I can't remember ever before seeing a team get three tech FTs only to miss them all." Jeez. I can't either. I mean, your best freethrower gets to shoot them, right? They didn't sign Chris Dudley to a 10-day contract did they?
Update! Andrew Bogut's "hive-five" party: I've seen some sad things in my life, many of which involved toxic amounts of alcohol and wizard costumes. Don't ask. But this may indeed be the saddest of them all -- Andrew Bogut high-fiving himself after a freethrow. Thanks to loyal reader Farfa for the double-eyeball. Warning: Your funny bone might not be ready for this.