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©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 22, 2001

Webber all smiles after signing 7-year, $122.7M deal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It was a sight few expected to see this summer: Chris Webber wearing his infectious grin while eagerly anticipating a long future with the Kings.

Webber signed the second-biggest contract in NBA history Saturday, agreeing to a seven-year deal worth $122.7-million to return to Sacramento.

Minnesota's Kevin Garnett has a six-year, $126-million contract.

"I looked at all my options, and after all the pluses and minuses, there was nothing better than being here," Webber said. "I had every option open to me. This is where I needed to be. That's why I'm back."

The deal's completion ended a year of speculation on the future of the All-NBA power forward, who told nearly everyone that after three years in small-town Sacramento, he longed for the brighter lights of bigger cities.

But after admitting he "really considered other places" -- most prominently Indiana and Detroit -- Webber decided to sign the largest possible contract under league rules in an unlikely return to Sacramento, where his fans love him and his teammates stand ready to help him make a serious championship run.

"I'm relieved I did the right thing," Webber said. "A few years ago, I might not always have done the right thing. Staying here was a sign to myself that I'm mature."

Webber maintained nearly total silence during the 18-day free-agency negotiating period, even failing to return the calls of several teams interested in his services.

Continuing that theme, Webber kept reporters in Sacramento waiting for nearly an hour while he showered and changed after a physical examination by team doctors. When he finally appeared at the Kings training complex, he was all smiles.

"I was hiding from you all," Webber said, laughing. "I didn't feel I needed to share this with everyone. It was the biggest decision of my life. I was able to be by myself and make the decision."

On Saturday, he had plenty to say about the Kings' suddenly sparkling future. Webber called the news conference announcing his signing "the biggest moment in my career, besides being drafted (No. 1 overall in 1993)."

BLAZERS: Denied a contract extension and caught off-guard by his team's courtship of Derek Anderson, shooting guard Steve Smith has asked to be traded.

Smith met with general manager Bob Whitsitt for 50 minutes Friday, during which Smith asked Whitsitt for a two-year contract extension, the Oregonian reported. The request was denied.

Smith said he told his agent, Dr. Charles Tucker, to start looking for a trade immediately.

SPURS: As expected, David Robinson re-signed, keeping the team's Twin Towers intact.

The 7-foot-1 Robinson has played all 12 of his seasons in San Antonio and teamed with 7-footer Tim Duncan to lead the team to the 1999 championship.

The deal is reported to be worth $20-million over two years.

POLL FAVORS JORDAN RETURN: The results from a Time-CNN poll of 1,015 adults showed 53 percent favored Michael Jordan returning to the NBA. The 38-year-old Jordan retired after the 1998 season after leading the Bulls to six championships in eight years. He is part owner and president of basketball operations of the Wizards. Twenty-seven percent were not in favor and 20 percent weren't sure.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.


ORLANDO 71, MINNESOTA 49: Nykesha Sales scored a team-best 15 for the Miracle in a rout in front of 7,574 at the Orlando Arena.

The Lynx's Svetlana Abrosimova, a former teammate of Sales at UConn, had a game-best 27 points.

PHOENIX 59, UTAH 50: Jennifer Gillom, the subject of trade rumors to Houston, scored 18 and Maria Stepanova added 15 for the host Mercury.

Gillom had 14 points in the final 17 minutes as the Mercury overcame a 12-point deficit to win its third straight.

CLEVELAND 56, CHARLOTTE 41: Ann Wauters scored 15 to lead the host Rockers to their sixth straight win.

"They're a great team," Charlotte coach Anne Donovan said.

* * *

WNBA TODAY ON TV: Miami at New York, 2, ESPN2.

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