Quit pouting, Chris Webber. Sorry you didn't make the East All-Star team, and, yes, I did notice that you're a 20-and-10 guy (20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds a game through Sunday, to be exact). I also duly noted that you've played in 44 of your team's 45 games without so much as a hangnail, after having missed 86 games because of injuries in the last two seasons. All of that is promising—very promising.
I can understand why you would be ticked off that Hawks forward Christian Laettner was chosen ahead of you. You're right if you believe that most NBA general managers would take you over Laettner any day. But making the All-Star team isn't about having potential; it's about right now, and guess what?
Right now Atlanta Is one of the league's top half-dozen teams—the Hawks were 30-14 through Monday—and the primary reason is Laettner, who was contributing 18.8 points and 9.0 rebounds a game at week's end. Meanwhile your team, the Bullets, is the league's most puzzling. With a nucleus of Juwan Howard, Rod Strickland and you, the shouldabeen All-Star, how can Washington be hovering around .500? If you want to focus on numbers, the Bullets' 21-21 record at the All-Star voting deadline did you in.
Besides, I'm saving my tears for somebody else. You want to know who really got rooked? Joe Dumars of the Pistons. Remember Joe? Quiet guy, future Hall of Famer with two championship rings, a two-way game and a temperament and work ethic that most coaches would kill for in a player.
The Pistons were depressed last summer when they failed in their attempts to sign Howard and another free agent, Dikembe Mutombo, and then watched the Knicks steal the Pistons' young stud of a shooting guard, Allan Houston. Surely this spelled catastrophe. It didn't, because Dumars knows how to play a little 2 guard, too. His numbers—14.5 points and 3.8 assists a game through last weekend, both second in Detroit to Grant Hill's—aren't gaudy, but when did individual numbers ever tell the whole story? One number that should have spoken volumes to the voters was Detroit's record at the All-Star balloting deadline: 30-11. It was enough to anoint Doug Collins the East All-Star coach, and it should have been enough to put a second Piston on the roster, along with starting forward Hill.
When I asked Dumars if he was disappointed he wasn't picked, he replied graciously, "All the guys who made the All-Star team deserve to be there."
I'm not suggesting Dumars should be on the East team instead of Tim Hardaway or Terrell Brandon. They belong. Substitute Dumars for Mutombo and leave only one Hawk on the team. So what if there would be too many guards? It's an All-Star Game, not a battle for the NBA championship.
It's nothing new for Dumars to be slighted. It was a common occurrence during his glory years with the Pistons in the late 1980s, when he was overshadowed by mega-personalities Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer. Dumars did enjoy a brief moment of individual recognition when he was rightfully named MVP of the '89 NBA Finals.
When the NBA in October released its list of its 50 greatest players, Dumars was not on it. Upon hearing that, Shaquille O'Neal, who did make the honor roll, offered Dumars his spot.
The continued respect of his peers and the urging of Collins have persuaded the 33-year-old Dumars, who had planned to retire after this season, to play two more years.