Chris Webber has been rationalizing the boos from Golden State fans as a sign of respect. Now set to play at least 19 games at ORACLE Arena this season, he might feel more comfortable if the Warriors faithful found a new way to show appreciation for his talent.
Webber is expected to start for the Warriors for the first time since his controversial rookie season, making his season debut in front of a crowd that has jeered him for well over a decade, when Golden State concludes its season series with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Warriors fans have been booing Webber since 1994, when the then-rookie superstar clashed with coach Don Nelson and crippled the franchise after asking to be traded. Neither man would back down until Nelson was fired and Webber was dealt to Washington after winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Fourteen seasons later, Webber is back with Golden State (29-19) and reunited with Nelson.
Detroit decided not to bring back Webber last summer, and he took several months away from basketball following the funeral of a longtime friend’s mother. Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin, who played with Webber in 2003-04, announced Tuesday that the veteran signed a contract with Golden State. Webber is expected to be put in the starting lineup Thursday by Nelson, who signed on for a second stint with the Warriors in August 2006.
Webber, who has also played with Sacramento and Philadelphia since leaving the Warriors, said he regrets his history with Golden State.
“Hopefully time has gone by and people realize it was 15 years ago, but you have to earn the fans’ trust,” said Webber, who has career averages of 20.9 points and 9.8 rebounds. “It was a great feeling getting booed here when I played at Sacramento, because with booing is respect. You don’t boo a guy that can’t play.”
Webber was inactive for Golden State’s 127-96 win over Charlotte last Friday. His first action of the season will be against a Bulls team that has lost eight straight road games versus the Warriors since an 87-80 win on Jan. 30, 1998.
Golden State also won its first meeting with the Bulls (19-29) this season, 119-111 on Jan. 18. Warriors guard Baron Davis matched his career high with 40 points in that game, but was held to five on 2-of-5 shooting in his last game.
Davis may not get a chance to match up with Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich. Bruised ribs sidelined Hinrich in the Bulls’ 100-97 loss to Portland on Wednesday night.
Chris Duhon will start if Hinrich can’t play. Duhon had nine points and nine assists, but committed five turnovers versus the Trail Blazers.
Gordon, averaging a team-high 20.0 points per game, led the Bulls with 29 in January’s matchup with the Warriors.
This will be the fifth stop of Chicago’s six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday night against Utah.