Webber answers Oakley with verbal blast of own

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There apparently wasn't enough enjoyment for Charles Oakley after his New York Knicks whipped the Washington Bullets, 107-83, on Dec. 6. Afterward, Oakley -- who jawed with both Chris Webber and Juwan Howard during the game -- continued the verbal thrashing.

"Young guys talking," Oakley said. "They don't have respect for me, I don't have respect for them.

"I only have a few friends in the league, because the league is full of bull," Oakley added. "It's not about talent anymore -- so many teams have talent, but they're not going anywhere. It's about marketing and individual things. Like the Washington Bullets. They have good players, but they're not going anywhere."

Webber, who faces Oakley and the Knicks tonight, continued the debate yesterday after hearing the comments for the first time.

"He's supposed to say that, he's on his way out," Webber said. "If he doesn't win a championship this year, he'll never win one. Me, I got nine more tries maybe."

Webber said an elbow from Oakley started the problems the last game. "That's just part of his tough act," Webber said. "You bully who you know you can bully. He won't try to bully me, he won't try to bully Juwan."

According to Webber the Knicks are developing into one of Washington's top rivals.

"It started when Charles Smith pushed Rasheed [Wallace] in the preseason. It started when Coach [Don] Nelson went there," Webber said. "There's not going to be a cheap shot without retaliation. They have to start respecting us."

Not posting up a title

Just before the Knicks took the floor against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, Patrick Ewing walked into the locker room and told John Starks: "I'm dropping 40 on them tonight."

At least Ewing's smart. He made the proclamation before facing Oliver Miller and the Raptors, and not before a game against Orlando, Houston or San Antonio.

With a 19-7 record going into last night's game, the Knicks had the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. But don't read too much into those numbers: the Knicks won't make much of an impact come playoff time.

You can't win without a superstar, which is what the Knicks face. Ewing, 33, is one of the game's top centers by default (George Zidek starting for Charlotte, and Christian Laettner at Minnesota is all you need to know about the state of the center position). Against a Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson or Rik Smits, Ewing is defenseless. The night before the Toronto game, Ewing hit five of 20 shots in a loss to the Magic.

The Knicks, also troubled by in-house bickering, have yet to prove they can compete with the best in the East.

"We have to beat Orlando, Chicago and Indiana," reserve center Herb Williams said. "That's all this season is about."

( So far, New York is 1-2.

Around the league

The Hornets have offered Robert Parish and a first-round pick to Toronto for Oliver Miller. Toronto declined. . . . Cleveland forward Chris Mills has been given the OK to take off the protective mask he's worn since nose surgery Nov. 22, but he'll ** wear it a bit longer. He was averaging 14.3 points without the mask, 19.1 with it.

Quote of the week

"They might as well have said I got traded for a case of Ben-Gay and a dozen water bottles." -- Clippers forward Brian Williams on his trade from Denver that included two players -- Elmore Spencer and Randy Woods -- who were cut last week.

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