Sacramento Bee

Peaking Webber is questionable
January 04, 2003
He may miss tonight's game because of knee trouble.

By Martin McNeal -- Bee Staff Writer

DENVER -- Kings coach Rick Adelman said Friday he did not know whether All-Star power forward Chris Webber would play tonight against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Adelman said Webber, suffering from discomfort in his left knee, participated in part of Friday's workout at the team's practice facility, then left the floor to have his knee iced and electronically stimulated.

"We're going to have to see how he feels (today)," said Adelman, who surprisingly indicated that former Denver and Toronto center/forward Keon Clark likely would start for Webber should he be sidelined.

In Webber, the Kings have one of the few players to lead their team in scoring (22.9 points), rebounding (10.3) and assists (5.0). Technically, Mike Bibby is the assists leader with 5.2 per game but has played only five games.

These days, Webber is at the top of his game. He says he thinks his mental approach is at an all-time high. He says he is not touting himself to be anything other than supremely in tune with where he wants to go and how he needs to get there.

"I like kind of just being quiet and doing my thing," he said. "A lot of times you don't get respect until you're done with the game, and I'm really focused right now.

"(As) focused as I've been in my life, and I'm really single-minded right now. A lot of my friends, basketball players, have talked to me and told me to get back to being C-Webb, quit being Chris Webber."

Immediately, Webber wanted something cleared up, and he did so with his trademark smile.

"I'm not speaking of myself in the third person," he said. "That's just what (my friends) said to me. They used those words exactly. That's what I want to get back doing, get back to being myself."

C-Webb is ever-aggressive, attacking, emotional and always confident.

Webber said the knuckle on his right index finger has improved to the point where he will discard the protective black glove he has sported nearly the entire season.

"I just pray my knee gets healthy," he said. "My ankles feel great. My wind feels great. I feel I can jump at a certain level. I'm taking the glove off, and I'm just ready to play."

Webber has a streak of six consecutive double-figure scoring and rebounding games and has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 12 of his past 13 contests.

At 29, he says he's learning from Adelman, and both said the lessons learned could be seen in the Christmas Day victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Webber says he needs to be a better team leader and is improving in that role. In the past, he could be seen screaming at his teammates or just generally when things weren't going well.

He admits that he believed some of his teammates did not react positively to those rants.

Now, he says he's learning to channel that emotion.

"I've learned through coach not how to conserve my energy, but he's really taught me how to not let my emotions lead the game," Webber said.

Adelman says he certainly does not want to remove Webber's or any of his players' emotions from the game.

"I think the Lakers game was a good example," the coach said. "We got down nine or 10 points in that game. And as our best player, the other guys are going to follow his lead.

"So what I've talked about with him is having some calmness about him in those situations. He was still emotional and kept playing hard, but he knew what he wanted to do and didn't try too hard. I think as a team we did that. Chris just kept control of himself."

Said Webber, "By him starting me off in that thought process, we've kind of worked with fail-safe shots, shots and options you can kind of always go to.

"It's been really good, and I think that was exhibited in that Lakers game. Before, we might have forced things and even if we made a shot, it might not (have been) a good make."

In Sacramento's last visit to Denver on Dec. 4, Webber had 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to help the Kings sneak away with a 92-90 victory.

With 16 games in January, including five back-to-back sets starting this weekend, Adelman hopes his team will be focused. And if Webber is leading the effort, the coach will feel that much better at tipoff.

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