Webber no longer
Kings trump card

Mar 1, 2005 8:33 AM

Trades can happen that fast. Chris Webber’s seven year career with the Sacramento Kings ended in roughly 48 hours.

"Chris has been with us the whole time we owned the Kings," Palms co-owner George Maloof told GamingToday in an exclusive interview less than a day after dealing the franchise’s most coveted player. "It’s very difficult to let someone you care about go."

How significant is the Webber trade to Philadelphia. Well, Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Sacramento at 7-1 (third best) to win the NBA Title. Now it’s 18-1. The Sixers are now 10-1 after opening 45-1. It was 60-1 two weeks ago at the Stardust.

"The trade just came about, nothing was planned," Maloof said. "Chris is a great athlete and I have the highest admiration for the guy. The trade was just something that made sense.

Critics and skeptics of the deal to Philadelphia for three journeyman players might say Maloof meant "cents." Not so, says George.

"It was time for Chris to move on, but money was not the key component," Maloof stated. "We have operated the Kings from day one with finances being secondary. We want what’s best for the franchise, and that’s bringing a winner to Sacramento."

Early returns support Maloof. The Kings and Sixers met Saturday night in Philly with Sacramento prevailing 101-99 with injured Peja Stojakovic (strained right hamstring).

Webber had a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), but missed 13 of his 20 field goal tries, including the final shot of the game. On the flip side, new Kings acquisitions Corliss Williamson and Kenny Thomas combined for 33 points and 16 rebounds.

The Webber deal may have been sudden, but the handwriting was on the wall. The Kings had a few weeks earlier sent Doug Christie to Orlando for Cuttino Mobley, a move not greeted warmly at first in either city. Then Sacramento went on a four-game losing streak with Webber, often the center of blame for past failures, reportedly having trouble co-existing on the court with Stojakovic.

"Peja and Mike Bibby are a big part of the team," Maloof said. "We had the seventh best record in the NBA. As far as team chemistry and going forward was concerned, it was the right time to make the trade."

The underlying reason for unloading Webber was the improved scoring from dependable forward Brad Miller, who had several 30-point games over the past month when the oft-injured Webber was out of the lineup.

"It would be fair to say that Brad’s emergence made this trade happen," Maloof admitted. "It would not have happened last year."

The trade also created an opportunity for second year player Darius Songaila to move from the bench into the starting lineup. Songaila scored four points and grabbed five rebounds in 19 minutes against the Sixers.

"Thomas and Williamson are veterans, who work hard," Maloof said. "Peja now has more freedom to operate on the court. We can score and I like the core of our team."

Disregard rumors over front office disputes. GM Geoff Petrie just signed a multi-year deal and Maloof indicated that longtime head coach Rick Adelman is secure as long as he wants the job.

"I think we are a better ballclub today than we were yesterday," Maloof said. "No knock on Chris, he was great for us for many years. But we were able to win with him out of the lineup. Like I said, the trade just happened. Nothing surprises me as far as deals these days."