Subscribe for 17¢ / day

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Chris Webber's first trip to the second round of the NBA playoffs is wreaking havoc on his personal life.

"Everything has changed. My sleeping habits are different, my eating habits are different," Webber said. "Everything I do is focused on the playoffs. I'm usually a night owl, but now I'm trying to sleep."

With those biological changes and the looming challenge of facing the Los Angeles Lakers, it's no wonder the normally easygoing power forward was a bit moody as the Sacramento Kings prepared for Sunday's opening game against the world champions.

Webber was solid but unspectacular in Sacramento's first-round victory over Phoenix. As the Kings got ready to battle Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant for the second straight postseason, Webber shook off any suggestion his play must improve for Sacramento to play with the streaking Lakers.

"It's about all the guys coming out focused and playing team basketball," Webber said. "It's not just about me or any other one guy. That's just not the way it is."

Still, Webber is well aware this is his first chance to make a name for himself as a postseason performer. After the first pick in the 1993 draft failed to get his first seven teams out of the first round of the playoffs, the Kings beat the Suns to make the second round for the first time in two decades.

Hobbled by two sprained ankles that still don't seem to be completely healed, Webber played inconsistently in Sacramento's four-game victory over Phoenix.

He had 20.3 points - seven points below his regular-season average - and 10.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 35 percent, and leading scorer Peja Stojakovic took most of the Kings' critical shots. It wasn't what most expected from the leading scorer on the NBA's highest-scoring team in each of the last three years.

"I think your best player has to lead the other guys," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "I don't think that means he has to score 30 points … but I think Chris has always been one to step up in games, and it certainly helps when your better players are stepping up. But it just can't come down all on his shoulders."

For a player soon to be the league's most sought-after free agent, a standout series against the Lakers also might further spur the determination of big-city suitors looking to woo Webber away from the small-town Kings. It has been weeks since Webber discussed his impending free agency at length.

The Kings likely will need an exceptional effort from Webber against the Lakers, who have upgraded their defense since last year's five-game first-round victory over Sacramento. Horace Grant was acquired specifically to deal with the West's top power forwards: Karl Malone, Tim Duncan and Webber.

"I just know we got out of the first series, and I shot bad this year," Webber said. "I don't care about that. Whether I make or miss, you've got to shoot."

In Toronto, Vince Carter's teammates challenged him to assert his will in the postseason, and Carter responded by leading the Raptors to a surprising victory over the Knicks.

Such a challenge hasn't been made in Sacramento, chiefly because the Kings believe they don't rely on Webber in the way other teams depend on their superstars. Webber is the center of their offense, but he is far from the only option.

"We've got a few guys who can do that job and be the big scorer or make the big defensive play," Vlade Divac said. "Peja can do it, C-Webb can do it, Jason (Williams) can do it. We don't just depend on C-Webb like that."

0
0
0
0
0
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.