Fourteen-year veteran Chris Webber is close to returning to the NBA, with the Pistons his likely destination, a source close to Webber told ESPN.com.
"Look for him to be back the first week of January," the source said.
The Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers had also inquired about Webber's services, with the Heat intensifying their efforts after backup center Alonzo Mourning suffered an apparent season-ending injury to his patellar tendon in a game at Atlanta Wednesday night. But for Webber, a Michigan native, his familiarity with the Pistons players and coach Flip Saunders' system after playing there last season appears to make them the most desirable team.
I have absolutely no idea if the Pistons even want him (update: they don't -- see below), but they certainly made it easy to create a roster spot by breaking Nazr's contract into two, easily digestible pieces via the Charlotte trade. There's no way Webber would return as a starter, and there's no way he'd be signed to take away minutes from Jason Maxiell. It's been suggested in the comments that he could fill Nazr's role as a little-used backup C, but that's what Primoz Brezec is here for, right? Not saying the Pistons are married to the idea of keeping and/or actually playing Brezec, but when I look at this roster, I don't automatically think, "this team could use another veteran big."
What do I see when I look at the roster? Like I mentioned in the last post, I see a handful of expiring contracts that could be used in a larger deal. Adding Webber to the mix (especially as a little-used reserve/mentor) makes a potential trade that much more difficult to swing. If he ever returns to the Pistons, I'm guessing it won't be until much, much closer to the trade deadline when Joe Dumars has more time to see what other options are available.
So what do we make of this report? I'm guessing it's strictly P.R. from Webber's camp, indirectly reminding the league that he's available and willing to latch on somewhere for the remaining two-thirds of the season. Mourning's injury in Miami makes for good timing to make it look like he's in demand, but I highly doubt he'd jump on board that sinking ship.
Update: Chris McCosky received confirmation that Detroit wasn't interested:
ESPN.com's J.A. Adande, citing an unnamed source, is reporting that Chris Webber could return to the Pistons as early as January. President Joe Dumars told me tonight that was not true. In fact, Dumars has told Webber's representatives this week that he is content with the roster as it is and has no immediate intentions of changing it.