I wonder if someone sent this article to Webber.
It wasn't Chris Webber's fault the Pistons fell apart in the final four games against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals. Nobody is saying that. It was a total team collapse; nobody, as president Joe Dumars said, escaped without a share of the blame.
But it appears obvious now, looking at it from a distance of some four months, that Webber's presence altered in a not altogether positive way the on-court chemistry of what had been one of the league's best starting units.
Richard Hamilton's production went down after Webber arrived. Hamilton admitted last week that it was partly due to trying to facilitate Webber.
"I guess I kind of took my foot off the pedal," he said.
Tayshaun Prince, who had been off to a career-best start, became almost an afterthought in the Pistons' offense.
Playing alongside Webber on defense, Rasheed Wallace was often left on an island, which led him into early frustration and foul trouble.
And then there was Chauncey Billups. He went from having the ball in his hands most of the time and making all the offensive decisions, to trying to get the ball to Webber and working off whatever decisions Webber made.
"After we got C-Webb, things didn't really change, but they got different," Billups said. "We were trying to get him incorporated into what we were doing. He was such a huge part of what we were doing, especially when he had it going. He made the game a lot easier for us. But a lot of times, the ball was out of my hands. We were trying to get it to him at the elbows and let him make all the great plays that he can make."
Had Webber been able to sustain his early efficiency and production, the Pistons would probably have played in their third NBA Finals and he would still be the starting center. From Jan. 20 through March 16, the Webber-led Pistons went 21-6 and looked invincible.
But it didn't work that way. Webber contracted a nasty flu during the team's West Coast trip that lingered for a couple of weeks, destroying his conditioning and derailing his season. He had been averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds over the final 15 games of that 21-6 run. In the final 14 games of the regular season, he managed just 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds.
The Pistons were forced to revert to their pre-Webber ways and never regained their offensive efficiency.
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