OAKLAND, Calif. -- Every 15 years or so, the Golden State Warriors make a BIG mistake, and they made one last night, right on cue.
Trading Chris Webber will haunt this franchise for as long as the 1980 trade of Robert Parish and the 1965 trade of Wilt Chamberlain -- and that's if the Warriors are lucky.
Webber, only 21, may haunt them longer.
On paper, Webber to Washington for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round draft picks is a better deal than those previous Hall of Shame entries. Gugliotta is a very good player, better than Joe Barry Carroll or Connie Dierking and the two other stiffs the Warriors got for Chamberlain.
But any trade involving Webber is a bad trade for the Warriors.
The prevailing sentiment today is that it had to be this way, that this was the only way to resolve the differences between Webber and coach/general manager Don Nelson. But, no, it didn't have to be this way. It should have never have come to this, should never have been allowed to get so far gone that the Warriors had to trade a franchise player.
If only he had been able to set aside his ego, if only he had been able to put the team ahead of himself.
I'm talking about Nelson here.
You could say the same about Webber, and plenty are, but I put the burden of blame on the coach and general manager.
They had a problem, did Nelson and Webber. And what did they do to work it out? Nothing. They didn't even try.
Webber, obviously, is not blameless in this scenario. He did not handle himself particularly well either. He had at least one too many advisers. It has been reported that he failed to appear at a couple of scheduled meetings with Nelson, but even so . . .
If I'm Nelson, and I've gone to such great lengths to acquire a player of this magnitude, I go to the same lengths to keep him. I'm at the guy's house this summer.
Chris, I know we've had our differences. I'm going to do everything I can to cut you some slack and I need you to cut me some slack. Let's work this out, let's go out and win us some championships together.
Maybe it wouldn't have worked. We'll never know. They didn't even try.
In his first season, Tim Hardaway had his problems with Nelson, too. He won his respect over time. Webber is a different breed, part of the new breed of professional athletes. He wanted that respect immediately.
You can say that's wrong. You can make whatever judgment you want about it. But that's the way it is in the 1990s, and a big part of a coach's job is to adjust to different personalities and changing times.
Yesterday was a dark, dark day in Warriors' history, as dark as it was bright just last year when Nelson swung the deal to get Webber. How could it have gone so bad so fast?
Not only has Nelson negated that deal, he also has diluted the impact of the trade for center Rony Seikaly last month. With Seikaly and Webber up front, the Warriors could afford to play Chris Mullin at small forward despite his defensive deficiencies and lack of rebounding. Now they cannot afford to, but they will.
Gugliotta is an excellent scorer and rebounder, but he's not Webber. He cannot block shots, he cannot intimidate, he cannot serve as a strong defensive presence. In short, he is not a franchise player.