The sudden, weird and even mildly morbid fascination with the Don Nelson-Chris Webber Reunion Tour has finally come full circle. In other words, dizziness is setting in.
|Chris Webber and Don Nelson coexisted before -- well, for a while at least. (Getty Images)|
He is thus bringing back memories of one of the ugliest spats in NBA history, one that undid an entertaining but not championship-track Warrior team, and sent both Nelson and Webber to lucrative but lesser situations. And with only 14 years' extra mileage (Nelson is slightly more stooped, and Webber's knees sound like two bags of Cheetos in an argument), the two are now about to remarry, reminding us that, in the end, it's still all show business.
Nelson is speaking openly of being worried about his current team's ability to make the playoffs, giving a healthy respect to the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Rockets that they might not yet have earned. He is thinking that Webber, cheap and easily acquirable, would help them get a stronger presence inside (which of course is what helped cause the friction between the two men to begin with), a fine passer and someone who can create a short jumper to balance out the long-jumper fixations of his team's core -– your Baron Davises and Stephen Jacksons yearning to find the elusive 4-point shot.
But the Warriors are only a local issue here, one of four teams vying for the final two Western Conference playoff spots, none of them particularly likely to go very deep as presently constituted. It's sort of like looking at the Atlanta-New Jersey-Indiana-Chicago-Milwaukee logjam in the East, only it's easier for you to keep your food down when you do it.
What this really is, kids, is The Sunshine Boys, a very modified George Burns-Walter Matthau movie set against the NBA. An old story, updated and retold for our amusement. In all honesty, Chris Webber wouldn't normally be anyone's first choice to fix what ails a team. He hasn't played a minute all year, he is coming off microfracture surgery, he is 34 years old, and there's no guarantee that he actually does cure what ails the Warriors. He doesn't improve their defensive posture, and while he has always been a good passer, passing has not been a Warriors shortcoming.
Is Nelson right to be concerned that the schedule gets tougher so his team needs same? Of course. Is Chris Webber the answer to that problem? Not necessarily. Is this more show biz than go biz? Hard to know -– at the worst, he would be a cipher, because with Davis and Jackson, the team's internal hierarchy is already set, and Webber would understand that if he has learned anything from more than 15 years in the game.
So it's the history that makes this intriguing, the history that undid both men and sent the Warriors into a decade-long spiral of glop that was undone only last March, and that with the still-unfathomable aid of the Dallas Mavericks. This is for people who like the idea that in time, the square peg and the round hole can live harmoniously, interspersing 20-second timeouts with choruses of Kumbaya. This is a move for right now, not for tomorrow, and it is very much a move for yesterday.
That is, if yesterday is your point of amusement; if Don Nelson's greatest blunder and Chris Webber's first signs of self-defeating stubbornness are a story worth reliving, let alone editing for the Hallmark happy ending.
But this much needs to be said. Even if Webber and Nelson had gotten along swimmingly back then, the Warriors still weren't a championship-level team. They were then what they are now, an entertaining, counterintuitive team with lots of that refreshing the-hell-with-it style that made them so fascinating in the playoffs. But not, and we repeat, not a title contender. Chris Webber: The Next Generation doesn't really change that.
It does, however, let us reminisce and lie about the good old days gone bad, and play parallel universe games at the taverns with our pals. If we can accept that for what it is, then it's an OK idea. It's hitting the audience where it lives, anyway, and as we said, that is part of Nellie's newfound charm.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.