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Webber's state isn't golden

THE BALTIMORE SUN

PHOENIX -- Nearly five weeks have passed since the Golden State Warriors traded Chris Webber, a major piece in their potential championship puzzle, to the Washington Bullets.

Webber, who will face his former teammates for the first time tomorrow, seems just as angry and disillusioned as when he left the San Francisco Bay area.

"My biggest regret," Webber said Monday, "is that it didn't work out the way it should have. I regret that they didn't keep the team together, because we were a championship team. We were the second-youngest team in the league last year. How could you break that up?"

A bruised and bloodshot right eye, which kept Webber from playing Monday against the Phoenix Suns, underscored his ardor as he addressed what he called coach Don Nelson's ongoing reluctance to face him, the dismantling of the Warriors as a title contender, and Latrell Sprewell's desire to go elsewhere.

Webber isn't surprised that Nelson, who is recovering from a bout of viral pneumonia, isn't expected to be at the game tomorrow.

"I just felt that he was scared to look me in the eye for a long time, because he knows he's done a lot of wrong things," Webber said. "I just knew something would happen.

"I'm not saying he isn't sick, I just knew he and I would never get a chance to meet face to face and I don't think we ever will. I wouldn't be surprised if he's not there when we play them in Washington [on Jan. 26]."

When told about Webber's remark Monday night, Nelson chuckled and said, "I have no comment on that."

Despite the eye injury, however, Webber, 21, vowed to play tomorrow "even if they have to wheel me out there." On the other hand, he says, there is nothing he can accomplish on the court that would ease his disappointment over what could have been.

"This game is really a waste of time," he said. "There are too many subplots. I want to win every game, but I know there is no one thing I can do that will make me feel satisfied."

And although he has followed the Warriors closely, he hasn't received any satisfaction from seeing them lose 13 of their past 14 games and their dreams of a championship.

"I think it's unfortunate for the players," Webber said. "I feel sorry for Spre. We talked over the summer about winning championships and being the team of the '90s. For that to be shattered, for that to be erased just like that, I really feel sorry for them."

Webber especially regrets not getting the chance to win a title with Chris Mullin, 31, who may have missed his best opportunity to win a ring.

"I especially feel sorry for Chris Mullin, because he's not going to win a championship now unless he's traded."

In one way, though, Webber views the Warriors' slide from a 7-1 start to an 8-14 record before last night's game vs. Dallas, as simply justice after the team traded him to the Bullets and Billy Owens to the Miami Heat.

"I'm not surprised, because good things don't happen if you don't deserve them," he said. "That team affected too many people's lives in a negative way for it to ever have anything.

"I don't care if people are religious or not, they have to realize things happen certain ways for certain reasons. Maybe it's because you try to cheat or you try to do other things."

bTC because they tried to do the same thing, such as sticking with Tim Hardaway as their go-to guy even after he missed all of last season and underwent surgery on both knees.

"They're missing their identity, because Tim's not the same," Webber said. "He's a tough little street guy, but that only gets you so far for so long. I'm not bad-mouthing him in any way, because he's an All-Star; he's done what he's supposed to do to prepare. I just think they were relying on him too much to take them to the promised land."

Nor should they expect Sprewell to do that after his four-year contract expires at the end of next season. Sprewell has denied rumors that he's already set on leaving after the 1995-'96 season and hopes to move on to either Milwaukee or Chicago. But Webber said: "I guarantee you he won't be back. Spre is not happy."

Webber insists, however, that he will extend his stay with the Bullets, even though he has a one-year, $2.1 million deal and acknowledges that they are several years away from being title contenders.

Despite getting an average of 18.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.25 blocked shots a game from Webber, the Bullets have lost eight of 11 since he joined them. He takes solace from the years of losing that Michael Jordan endured with the Chicago Bulls before winning three straight titles.

"I'm loyal to the Bullets," he said. "Everybody talks about me going to Detroit or someplace else, but this is where I'm going to stay. I'm not happy on the court yet, but I'm happy off it."

Is there anything, other than the Bullets' schedule, that could possibly bring him back to the Bay area?

"Hell, no," he said. "After the way I was treated by the fans and the media . . . it's really too late. I was mistreated there, just like Mitch Richmond, Billy Owens, Mario Elie, Tyrone Hill -- and then I was dogged by the media. They messed with my character, messed with my family. No, never, never will I go back. I forgive, but I don't forget."

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