Monday, January 28, 2008
Updated: January 29, 3:48 PM ET
'With great pride and humility,' Webber returns to Warriors
By Marc Stein
Chris Webber told ESPN.com on Monday night that he will arrive in Oakland on Tuesday to officially re-join the Golden State Warriors and play again for Don Nelson.
"I'll be there tomorrow," Webber said via e-mail. "It's a done deal."
On Tuesday, it was indeed done. The Warriors formally announced they had signed Webber, who likely won't be meeting up with his new teammates until Thursday, after they return from road games in Houston and New Orleans.
Webber's first game appearance likely would be on Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats, although Nelson could elect to give Webber more time to get acclimated. The Warriors have five days off for practices after the Charlotte game.
"It is with great pride and humility that I announce my return to the Golden State Warriors, the place where it all started," Webber said in a statement. "This organization and city has always had a special place in my heart because it is where my dream of being an NBA player first came true."
Webber has signed for a pro-rated share of the league's $1.2 million veteran minimum, which computes to just less than $570,000 if he stays with Golden State to the end of the regular season.
When asked to elaborate on a reunion that's arguably even more unlikely than the brief stint Penny Hardaway completed with Shaquille O'Neal's Miami Heat earlier this season, Webber said told ESPN.com Monday night that he would speak at length about his decision later this week.
But the proclamation to confirm that he's returned to the team and city where he began his NBA career in 1993 -- and where he lasted only one season because of a fast-crumbling relationship with Nelson -- will be sufficiently stunning to longtime Warriors fans who believe that the breakdown of the initial Webber-Nelson partnership
doomed Golden State to more than a decade of despair.
Before Nelson's own surprising and triumphant return to Oakland last season, which resulted in an immediate trip to the playoffs and a historic first-round upset of the 67-win Dallas Mavericks, Golden State hadn't reached the postseason since going 50-32 in 1993-94. That was Webber's first and only season as a Warrior, but the honeymoon was one of the shortest ever seen in the league. Some six months after winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors, Webber forced a trade to Washington to get away from Nelson, who was ousted as Warriors coach and general manager soon after.
But Nelson has been warmly welcomed back to the Bay Area by the Warriors' rabid fans in spite of the initial perception that he chased off one of the most talented players in franchise history. Nelson has fronted Golden State's unlikely push to bring him back and has maintained that he and Webber reconciled years ago, when he chose Webber to replace the injured O'Neal -- over Dirk Nowitzki from Nelson's Mavericks -- as the West's starting center for the 2002 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.
Although there is widespread skepticism regarding Webber's ability to keep up with Nelson's run-and-gunners -- given the mobility issues that have hampered the 34-year-old since a serious knee injury in the 2003 playoffs and subsequent microfracture surgery -- Nelson insists that the Warriors need Webber's passing and midrange game to get them unstuck when the game slows down or their countless three-pointers aren't dropping.
Nelson and Warriors vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin -- one of Webber's teammates during his solitary season in Golden State -- have likewise expressed confidence that the 67-year-old coach and Webber are ready for this seemingly hard-to-fathom reunion after numerous conversations in recent days.
"I'm afraid if we don't get him here [that] our team is not strong enough to be a playoff team," Nelson said. "That's my biggest fear. I think if he comes it can benefit our team, it can benefit his and my relationship, it can benefit players on this team. I think he has a chance to make some of our players better and make our team better. Really, that's all that's important. I'll get along with anybody who can help our team."
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.