LANDOVER -- After he played in just 15 games last season, some doubted whether Chris Webber could even fit in with the Washington Bullets this season.
But Webber has proved his doubters wrong, averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds during the first half of the season -- one of six NBA players to do so.
So when the NBA yesterday announced the reserves for the All-Star team, it was almost a given that Webber would be among the 24 players. But he received one of the shocks of his NBA career at the shoot-around yesterday afternoon, when coach Jim Lynam told him that he had not made it.
"It just makes me numb," a soft-spoken Webber said after last night's 102-82 win over the Orlando Magic. "I'm a person that, when I go through something that's kind of tough, my first instinct is to go to sleep. I just went home from practice and went to sleep."
And when he woke, the nightmare was still there. Of the six players averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds, Webber was the only one who was not an All-Star.
The five who made it are starters Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks) and Shawn Kemp (Seattle SuperSonics) and reserves Shaquille O'Neal (Los Angeles Lakers), Vin Baker (Milwaukee Bucks) and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz).
The seven reserves named to the Eastern Conference (as voted by coaches) were Baker, Terrell Brandon (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning (Miami Heat), Christian Laettner and Dikembe Mutombo (Atlanta Hawks) and Glen Rice (Charlotte Hornets).
Webber had come back strong this season. He is averaging 20.2 points (20th in the league), 10.0 rebounds (16th), 2.0 blocks (10th) and 4.8 assists. He has one triple double this season and has flirted with triple doubles on several other occasions.
Of the two Eastern Conference power forwards named to the team, only the numbers of Baker (22.5 points, 10.7 rebounds) were better. Laettner averaged 19.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.8 blocks.
"I don't think there's anyone playing an all-around better game than Chris is," Bullets general manager Wes Unseld said. "I'm very surprised. The way he's been playing from day one, I thought he would be there."
Webber may have had the misfortune of having a standout season when other forwards in the East also are. Charlotte forward Anthony Mason also could have made a claim to the All-Star team.
The real surprise in the East may have been the selection of Atlanta center Dikembe Mutombo, who is having a solid season in rebounding (12.5 -- fifth in the league) and blocks (3.56 -- second) -- but is not much of a scorer. Perhaps the most undeserving of the East All-Stars is Hardaway, who has played in 15 games. Hardaway was voted a starter by the fans.
As the Washington players filed into the locker room yesterday, most had not heard about the vote. All were shocked that Webber was not among the East reserves.
"He didn't make it? I thought he was pretty much a shoo-in," Rod Strickland said. "I felt, without a doubt, that Chris had all-star numbers. Look at his scoring, rebounds, passing, blocks, steals. He's had a real good all-around season. I guess with some of the other guys, their teams had better records."
Lynam spent much of the pre-game answering questions about Webber.
"I was somewhat surprised, but any time there's a vote, you never know what the outcome is going to be," Lynam said. "The competition was certainly keen. But having said that, I can only speak my opinion. Chris Webber, his first half, was all-star caliber."
Player ............... Pos .. Team
Grant Hill ............ F ... Detroit
Scottie Pippen ........ F ... Chicago
Patrick Ewing ......... C ... New York
Anfernee Hardaway ..... G ... Orlando
Michael Jordan ........ G ... Chicago
Vin Baker, F, Milwaukee; Terrell Brandon, G, Cleveland; Tim Hardaway, G, and Alonzo Mourning, C, Miami; Dikembe Mutombo, C, and Christian Laettner, F, Atlanta; Glen Rice, G, Charlotte.
Doug Collins, Detroit.
Player ............. Pos .. Team
Charles Barkley ..... F ... Houston
Shawn Kemp .......... F ... Seattle
Hakeem Olajuwon ..... C ... Houston
Gary Payton ......... G ... Seattle
John Stockton ....... G ... Utah
Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston.
Pub Date: 1/29/97