BOWIE -- Chris Webber is a positive thinker. So when a worse-case scenario was posed about his sore left shoulder -- the same one he separated last season, leading to his missing 19 games -- Webber wanted to think nothing of it.
"Nothing's going to go wrong," Webber said. "I just have to think that way."
And yet for the Washington Bullets there has to be major concern about the injury, which forced Webber to miss the team's three-hour practice yesterday at Bowie State. Webber can't exactly pin down when the injury occurred, but he said it may have been during his brief scuffle with Luc Longley during the 112-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday at the United Center. Both players threw punches and were ejected.
"It might have happened then," Webber said. "I know some of the other players had my arms when I tried to pull away. I just don't know."
What Webber, who recently signed a six-year, $57 million contract, did know yesterday was that the shoulder was painful. And so while his teammates went through what was maybe the most intense practice in recent years, Webber sat getting the shoulder iced and massaged. He'll have X-rays taken today.
"I can barely raise my arm above my head, I have to do it slowly," Webber said. "Hopefully it's just sore, hopefully I just pulled it and stretched it and loosened up some scar tissue."
If Webber does miss any appreciable time, there will be one fewer experienced frontcourt player to take his place with last night's trade of center Kevin Duckworth to the Milwaukee Bucks for forward Bob McCann.
Duckworth, 31, never played up to expectations since joining the Bullets before the 1993-94 season after being a two-time All-Star in Portland. Last season, McCann averaged 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds for Rapid City of the CBA.
Losing Webber for any amount of time will be a further setback for a team already reeling from the absence of newly acquired point guard Mark Price because of a heel injury.
"I don't think it's a big deal," coach Jim Lynam said of Webber's injury. "But it emphasizes that he should work on [rehabilitation] all the time."
"The doctors told me [last year] that it would take a year to heal," Webber said. "I just hope it's not as bad. . . . It just brought back some bad memories."
And it forced Webber to miss a heated practice in which bodies were sent flying -- at times intentionally. More than one player was sent to the floor with forearms, and late in the practice Don MacLean and Juwan Howard -- who traded shoves much of the afternoon -- had to be separated.
"That's just part of the game," Howard said. "We leave that stuff on the court. Off the court, we're still friends."
Lynam said he liked the intensity of what turned out to be the longest practice, coming after the team flew in from Chicago.
"You have to bear down," Lynam said. "Whatever mental toughness means, that's a factor in winning close games in this league."
Webber said he is hopeful that the intensity in practice carries over into games.
"I think the Bullets have had a tendency to think like losers," Webber said. "If you ever go to a Bulls practice or a Golden State practice, those guys have pride and go at each other every day.
"We don't even have an identity as a team. What's our identity? Young and forwards," Webber said. "We're the Bullets. I don't know what that meant in the last 10 to 11 years. But now it means we're a team that's not going to take any [stuff] from anybody."
NOTES: Center Jim McIlvaine, who signed a one-year deal on Tuesday, was impressive in his first practice. . . . Both Price and Tim Legler (sore left heel) will make the six-game road trip. . . . The Bullets will scrimmage tonight at the James Athletic Complex at Bowie State. Donation is $5 ($2 for Bowie State students).