Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Prodigal Son Returns

I pretty much said my piece on Chris Webber coming to the Pistons last week, so I'll try not to rehash it. After making the case that I didn't think he would sign with Detroit (and arguing over it with a few friends), I came to realize that it wasn't so much that I didn't think he could help the Pistons. Regardless of how his skills have diminished, I think it's clear that he's an upgrade over their current big men (or "bigs," as we like to say these days). And judging from the ovation he received at the Palace yesterday, the fans seem to agree.

So it must be that I belong among those that still hold a grudge over what he did to the Michigan basketball program. And I'm not saying that's rational. Webber was just a kid when he took those money-filled handshakes from Ed Martin. Many of us have done stupid stuff in our late teens that we regret as adults.

Sure, I still grind my teeth when I think about Webber complaining that he couldn't even afford a pizza while he was stuffing his pockets with thousands of forbidden dollars.

But he was right to point out the hypocrisy of a school pulling in millions of dollars in jersey and apparel sales from an athlete's notoriety while cutting those same kids off from the money they helped bring in. Even if Webber really didn't have an ideological leg to stand on, it was still an issue very much worth raising.

Besides, the Michigan athletic department has had many years since Webber's money-filled handshakes with Ed Martin to try and fix the damage that occurred, and generally botched the job with failures to react to such boosters, along with bad coaching hires since Steve Fisher was dismissed.

I guess what I'm saying is I should get over my grudge. Maybe I will. But I felt like Webber was dead to me when those penalties were handed down by the NCAA. And I chalked it up to karma when he suffered that knee injury in the 2003 playoffs that affects him to this day. Letting go of that won't happen overnight.

However, another NBA title would surely go a long way toward letting bygones be bygones. (And if that championship came with a little humility from Webber, it'd be even nicer.) The Pistons obviously needed a push, something to freshen up what's become somewhat stale. It holds some underperforming players (Nazr Mohammed) accountable for their lack of production and puts the rest of the roster - including the coaching staff - on notice.

Perhaps most importantly, this allows the other dominoes to fall for Joe Dumars. This very likely isn't the last move he makes. One of the bigs has to go. Long-range shooting and quality back-up point guard play have been constantly elusive for the Pistons since their last championship, and this gives Joe D yet another chance to address those needs. And with the Eastern Conference in its current state, such moves should make Detroit a favorite to return to the NBA Finals.

Redemption, forgiveness, affirmation, and success. They're all ingredients that could make for a compelling story, if the ending works out as everyone hopes.

Don't blow it, Chris.

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  • At January 16, 2007 3:57 PM, Blogger Mini Me said…

    I think Chris will be a valuable addition to the Pistons roster. He puts them right back at the top of the Conference with Cleveland and Miami (with healthy Shaq).

  • At January 17, 2007 10:45 AM, Blogger David said…

    What I'd like to see is for Chris to take the high road, (assuming he's in the clear legally at this point) and issue a statement apologizing to the University of Michigan and its fans for what he did, he doesn't have to be specific, just say he made some bad decisions while in school. Then put his money where his mouth is, and establish a scholarhip fund at UM to help those students who really can't afford pizza.


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