Webber's busy Bullets day: sign, fly, play Bad news cools new deal: Price to miss three weeks


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. -- There were so many losing streaks last season that Chris Webber can't quite remember the exact moment. But he does recall walking into the locker room after a loss, seeing a distraught Juwan Howard and wondering if the Washington Bullets were really the team for him.

"We had just lost seven in a row, Juwan was real emotional and it really got to me," Webber said yesterday. "When I saw Juwan so emotional, it made me second-guess.

"But it was just for a second."

That the thought only lasted a second became clear yesterday when Webber signed a six-year contract worth a reported $59 million at the NBA team's offices in Landover. After a news conference, Webber boarded a helicopter and flew to the campus of Shepherd College, just in time to participate in the team's scrimmage before a packed crowd.

Webber will get in his first full practice before the team breaks camp today, but the Bullets announced yesterday that newly acquired point guard Mark Price will rest the next three weeks as he recovers from an inflamed plantar fascia of the left heel. That would essentially put Price, who left camp to see doctors in Washington yesterday, out for the entire preseason.

"We don't want to do anything to aggravate the condition," said general manager John Nash, who sent a 1996 first-round pick to Cleveland for Price. "Doctors stress it's not serious or career-threatening. It's a disappointment.

"I asked the doctor, knowing what they know today, would you have passed Mark on his physical -- and he said yes," Nash said. "We made a trade, the doctors gave a thumbs-up, and we have to rely on them."

In last night's scrimmage, Webber wore the No. 4 that he made so popular at Michigan (Scott Skiles wore No. 4 last season, forcing Webber to wear No. 2), and when he walked on the court, the crowd went crazy.

Of course, the man who hasn't had a minute of training camp scored the first points. Then he consistently wowed the crowd with his passes, dunks, enthusiasm and attitude -- lots of attitude.

"Rasheed [Wallace] needs this, I don't need this," Webber said, when asked if missing part of camp hurt. "As far as getting acclimated to things, I've played for two years. I know what it's all about."

Later, Webber expressed happiness in finally getting the contract wrapped up.

"I feel good, I can't emphasize that enough," Webber said, a big smile on his face. "I have peace of mind. It doesn't come with money. If I wanted more money, I would have stayed in Golden State last year. It's all about happiness."

It's also all about winning for Webber, who wanted to make sure the Bullets were committed to doing just that before he agreed to a multi-year deal.

"They've definitely brought in a lot of guys to do that," Webber said. "Last year, some of us looked at the NBA as if we were outsiders looking in.

"We're part of the NBA and we should be proud of it. I don't need to be on a team where I'm the best player, or I'm the focal point. Just a team that's committed to winning."

Webber hopes that commitment includes Howard, who can exercise a two-year option out of his contract and become a free agent at the end of this season.

"I'm happy for Chris, and he had to do what was best for Chris," Howard said. "But next year, I'm not looking to hold out of camp. I just look forward to taking care of Juwan, and I don't care what Chris received."

Howard was a holdout last season before signing an 11-year, $36 million contract Nov. 17. During negotiations that were at times hostile, the Bullets suggested that Howard wouldn't even be a starter last season. But he played beyond everyone's expectations, an indication that he also could be due for a big payday next season.

NOTES: Don MacLean (23 points), Gheorghe Muresan (18 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Howard (19 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) were impressive in the scrimmage. . . . Wallace (10 points, six rebounds) was critical of his performance: "I think I flopped. I missed some shots I should have made, I had some turnovers [five] and I made some dumb passes." . . . The Bullets break camp after today's practice. Washington opens the preseason in Charleston, S.C., Thursday against the New York Knicks.

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