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The Sacramento Kings traded Chris Webber to the Philadelphia 76ers late Wednesday night, parting ways with the cornerstone of their renaissance in a six-player deal that dramatically reshaped both teams.
|Legler: 76ers still need more|
This is the first time Allen Iverson has had a legitimate, All-Star, low-post threat. Allen is going to have to adjust his game to get Webber his touches, but now you have two superstar players on the same team in that division.
The Sixers had a chance to win the Atlantic without Chris Webber. With Webber, they are the clear-cut favorites. But it's a long way to go from that to winning an NBA championship without more parts.
Tim Legler, an NBA analyst for ESPN and former NBA 3-point champion, is a regular contributor to Insider.
Geoff Petrie, the Kings' president of basketball operations, acquired Webber from Washington before the 1999 season in a deal that transformed Sacramento into a contender. The Kings then re-signed Webber to a seven-year deal worth approximately $127 million in 2001.
"Trading Chris has been one of the most difficult and emotional decisions I have been involved in," Petrie said late Wednesday night. "He has been an instrumental force in ushering in and maintaining an exciting period of basketball in Sacramento. I can't thank him enough for his efforts as a King. When we talked, he was incredibly professional in every way.
"We all wish him the best. The memories remain the property of the Kings."
Webber, the No. 1 overall pick in 1993 following a stellar career at Michigan, has played exceptionally well for the Kings in recent weeks, averaging 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game -- though he isn't the athlete he was before undergoing serious knee surgery following the 2003 playoffs.
While the Kings fundamentally changed their core, Philadelphia added a charismatic superstar to complement Allen Iverson in what should be one of the NBA's most potent duos.
"They're going to probably win the Atlantic now," Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James said of the Sixers. The Webber trade is "going to make them one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. I know Iverson is very happy about it. I'm going to call him and tell him he got an early Christmas present."
Webber could play Saturday against the Kings in Philadelphia.
"The message that we're sending is that we went out and got a player who's averaging 21 and 10 to go along with our young players," Sixers president Billy King said.
After scoring 30 points in the Kings' 114-104 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night, Webber acknowledged the annual uncertainty over his future with a shrug -- but the forward, who has three years and $62 million left on his contract, clearly didn't believe he was about to be traded.
"It's something I live with," Webber said. "It gets very old, but there's nothing you can do about it. If I believe everything I read and everything I hear, I'd be on an emotional roller coaster."
Though both Webber and Peja Stojakovic denied rumors of a rift, Stojakovic demanded a trade from the Kings last summer for unclear reasons. Sacramento was rumored to be discussing a trade with the Lakers involving Stojakovic, who will be a free agent after next season -- though Petrie denied it.
Stojakovic was the NBA's second-leading scorer last season, but hasn't been the same player since Webber returned from surgery last season, looking tentative and deferring to Webber. Mike Bibby and Brad Miller also tend to allow Webber to dictate the pace of the Kings' offense, sometimes inhibiting Sacramento's up-tempo style.
King was looking to make a deal to improve the Sixers' frontcourt as they make their playoff push. The Sixers are 26-27 and just a half-game behind Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division.
King said Iverson was "ecstatic" about the deal. The Sixers' next game is Thursday night in New York -- the annual rumored destination for Webber, who was coveted by Knicks president Isiah Thomas.
"I think the way we play, it allows some of our younger guys to develop even more because you've got a big guy now that can really make passes and shoot the jump shot," King said.
The Kings have the NBA's seventh-best record at 34-20, and the deal is a risky move by Petrie, who had never made a significant in-season trade before this season. He has made two in recent weeks: The Kings acquired Cuttino Mobley from Orlando for Doug Christie last month.
The Kings were in Dallas on Wednesday night preparing for a game against the Mavericks -- the first in a six-game road trip, their longest of the season.
King insisted he wouldn't part with any of his prized nucleus of young players to make a deal and he didn't have to.
Williamson, a first-round draft pick by the Kings in 1995, played five years in Sacramento before being traded to Toronto for Christie following the 1999-00 season. The Sixth Man of the Year in 2001-02 with the Pistons, Williamson is averaging 10.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 22 minutes per game this season.
Thomas, a sixth-year pro with a solid outside game, is averaging 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds this season, while Skinner will be playing for his fifth team in seven seasons. Clearly, the Sixers didn't give up much to get Webber: Thomas had fallen out of favor with first-year Sixers coach Jim O'Brien, while Skinner was a free-agent bust.
Thomas has five years and $39 million left on his contract, but Skinner is in the final guaranteed year of his deal, and Williamson has two years left. All three still might be on the move if Petrie has additional deals in mind before the trading deadline on Thursday.
"The addition of Corliss, Kenny and Brian gives us additional flexibility and versatility on our front line," Petrie said. "They are all quality players who we feel will make significant contributions to our team. We look forward to incorporating them into our style of play."
Barnes, a Sacramento native, has been a seldom-used reserve for the Kings this season, though he took Peja Stojakovic's spot in the starting lineup recently. Bradley was acquired earlier in the season in Sacramento's deal for Mobley, but hasn't played much.
The 76ers will play in Sacramento on March 28.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.