O’Neal: Webber won’t be back in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, California, AP

Chris Webber’s future has been a hot topic all season, and it heated up again just moments after the Sacramento Kings’ season ended. Webber began his summer of free agency after the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Kings out of the playoffs with a 119-113 victory Sunday. The sweat on his brow hadn’t even dried before he was hit with more questions on where he’ll play next season. At least one league observer already has weighed in with his opinion — and Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t resist a dig at the Lakers’ upstate rivals as well. “It was fun battling with this team, and now that C-Webb isn’t going to be here anymore, they’re going back to the expansionism,” O’Neal said. “I don’t think he’ll be here.” Most would agree with O’Neal — at least about Webber’s future. Webber has made no secret of his longing for the nightlife and culture of a bigger city, and many of his friends around the league say Webber will almost certainly leave the franchise he helped revitalize after a 1998 trade from Washington. But after the Kings’ Game 4 loss, Webber maintained he hasn’t yet made a decision, and he doesn’t plan to make one soon. He said he will take several weeks off before making any visits or announcements. “I just want to sit down with my family and make sure I make the right decision,” Webber said. “I’ve been going over my thoughts for a long time, and I’ve been doubting myself. I want to make sure I make the right decision for the right reasons.” Webber finished the regular season as the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer, averaging a career best 27.1 points, and the seventh-leading rebounder (11.1). He led the Kings in scoring 58 times and was the first option on the league’s highest-scoring team as the Kings won 55 games and finished one game behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division. Webber wasn’t quite as sharp in the playoffs, averaging 23.2 points and shooting just 38.8 percent while playing a handful of poor games. Plagued by foul trouble, he had just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the fourth quarter Sunday. The Kings already have stated their intention to offer Webber a seven-year, US$121 million contract — the largest allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. If Webber decides to leave, he would likely allow Sacramento to work a sign-and-trade deal with his team of choice. The front-runners for Webber’s services include New York — where he could be reunited with good friend Latrell Sprewell — Houston, Orlando and Indiana, but there are perhaps a dozen other teams with which Webber could conceivably end up. Sacramento coach Rick Adelman didn’t address Webber’s future, but he noted the Kings have a solid core of young players that should prevent a gigantic leap back in Webber’s potential absence. Adelman and Webber both were enthused by the Game 4 performance of rookie Hedo Turkoglu, who had 22 points. “We had a season that nobody expected us to have, and we’re all proud of that,” Adelman said. “This is a good, young team, and what happened today doesn’t change that.”