PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The strange confluence of Chris Webber’s past and present came down to the play that “never works.”
It would have worked this time if Webber had converted a layup.
Webber came up short on a last-second layup after grabbing an offensive rebound off an intentionally missed free throw, spoiling his debut for the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night in a 101-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
“For some reason, that play never works,” Webber said of the intentional miss. “I just knew it was going to work this time. I tried to get it out of my left hand and throw it up, thinking time, but there was more time than I thought, and after I missed, it was a letdown.”
Webber had 16 points, 11 rebounds and three steals in his first game with his new team. Strangely, it came against the franchise that traded him less than 72 hours earlier.
Webber didn’t have the ball in his hands as much as he’s accustomed to, but Allen Iverson took care of distributing it by handing out a season-high 14 assists to go with his 27 points.
Mike Bibby scored 19 points to lead six players in double figures for the Kings.
Webber was shocked when he first learned he had been traded, an emotion that didn’t quite compare to the overwhelming weirdness as he debuted for his new team against his old one.
“Real weird seeing No. 4 starting for the other team, but a lot of fun,” Sacramento’s Brad Miller said.
Webber, wearing a red and black headband and a white “Sixers” jersey, exchanged hugs with all five starters from his former team after receiving a thunderous ovation during introductions from the 76ers’ first sellout crowd of the season.
Scalper traffic was heavy outside the arena, and the arena was full for the first time in 26 home games. More than 11,500 advance tickets have been sold since the 76ers pulled off the trade for Webber on Wednesday night.
The relatively low price the Sixers paid, giving up forwards Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner while keeping intact their young core of Samuel Dalembert, Kyle Korver, Andre Iguodala and Willie Green, helped contribute to a palpable air of excitement.
Webber knocked down his first two shots, both jumpers, and played to the crowd after Sacramento was forced to call an early timeout.
“When I hit my first shot and they reacted that way, it was like: OK, this is going to be home. It felt great,” Webber said. I’m just disappointed I couldn’t bring a win home.”
Philadelphia began the night just one game behind Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division, and there was a sense in this city that making the playoffs might merely be the first step of what could be a deep march through the postseason if Webber and Iverson can blend.
“I’m looking to the challenge to see how we connect,” Webber said. “I think it’s definitely Allen’s team because he’s proven to the city, the community and the team what he brings to the table. But I think now it’s going to be our team because of the way him and I are going to work together.”
Iverson is no stranger to being paired with scorers who were supposed to work well with him, but none of the players the 76ers have imported—from Jerry Stackhouse to Larry Hughes to Keith Van Horn to Glenn Robinson to Toni Kukoc—has ever fit into that role.
Part of the blame can be pointed at Iverson for his tendency to dominate the ball to such an extent that those second scorers never had enough offensive opportunities to be consistent threats. This time will be different, the Sixers hope, because of Webber’s ability to pass the ball and run the offense through the high or low post.
Webber said the contrast between Sacramento’s schemes and Philadelphia’s offense was “like the difference between cursive and shorthand. It’s just crazy, but I will make an adjustment.”
For the Kings, concerns over Webber’s recovery from microfracture surgery on his knee—“There’s no way I’m 100 percent,” he said Saturday—along with the $62 million remaining on his contract were two of the other reasons behind their decision to trade one of the game’s most versatile big men.
The game was close throughout, the Kings coming back from an 11-point third-quarter deficit and going ahead 96-92 on a basket by Williamson before Webber hit a jumper to make it a two-point game.
Samuel Dalembert missed two free throws, and Iguodala airballed a 3-pointer after Aaron McKie grabbed an offensive rebound. Another chance to tie came when Iguodala was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 7.7 seconds left, but he missed the first before making the next two.
Two free throws by Cuttino Mobley made it 101-98, and Iverson hit the first of two with 3.4 seconds left before intentionally missing the second. Three members of the Kings helped Webber off the floor after he missed.
“I told Chris that the rebound was going to come long. Everything happened right,” Iverson said. “We just couldn’t finish it.”
Webber had one assist, giving him 2,999 for his career. … Kings F Peja Stojakovic missed his fifth consecutive game due to a strained hamstring. … At one point during the second quarter, the Kings had all three forwards obtained from Philadelphia on the court at the same time.