[Update: Dumars spoke again today, check the bottom of this post ...]
From the Detroit News:
"I have had an exchange (verbal) with Chris within the last 24 hours and I've been in constant communication with his agent (Aaron Goodwin)," Pistons president Joe Dumars said. "But the one thing that hasn't changed is that we still have a 15-man roster, and that poses a problem as far as bringing him here."
Dumars said it was not his intention to buy out the contracts of either Flip Murray or Primoz Brezec. So, unless a trade can be made, Webber is going to remain on the outside.
We've had variations of the Chris Webber debate several times over on this site, so feel free to skip the "should we?" opinions and focus on the "will we?" speculation in the comments. (Or not, the comments are your domain, feel free to re-hash to no end if that's your thing. I'm just saying that the point of this post isn't to open that can of worms, just to pass along the latest info.)
At first my gut feeling was, "well, if he's in constant communication with Goodwin and is even taking calls from Webber, something must be cooking." But the more I think about it, I'm not so sure. Yes, Murray and Brezec have expiring contracts, but those are just as valuable to Detroit as any other team.
I've kind of held a simplistic view that as soon as a team offered a pair of second-round picks, Murray would be out the door. But who'd make that deal? Not a team looking for cap relief (duh, you only get cap relief by dumping a bad contract, not trading picks that don't actually cost anything), and probably not an actual contender (since Dumars most likely wouldn't trade with an Eastern team and nobody in the West seems to be interested). I suppose Brezec has a touch more value simply because of his size/position, but it's basically the same conundrum.
Since moving either player individually without getting an actual player back in return seems surprisingly difficult, I think the most likely scenario to open a spot is a 2-for-1 in which Detroit trades Murray and Brezec. But that's more difficult than it sounds. The only teams who'd jump at that deal would be those looking to dump a long contract, but it doesn't make sense for Detroit to take on a bad contract just to clear a spot as opposed to just buying out a deal.
The best-case (and least likely) scenario is Dumars pulling a 2-for-1 while duping a team into giving up a quality player with a respectable contract. (Murray and Brezec combine to make $4.64 million, and there are plenty of useful individual players at that pay grade.) Maybe it could happen -- Dumars is a shark -- but it'd take a team really, really desperate to clear room under the salary cap this summer to make it happen.
Or, maybe Dumars actually is willing to buyout one of those two guys at the last second and is merely putting on a front to encourage more trade offers. In hindsight, that's probably the most likely option, which means I probably should have just pasted his quote and not wasted any time speculating any other possibilities.
Update: A. Sherrod Blakely spoke with Joe Dumars today (1/21):
"I had dialogue with Chris this afternoon," Dumars said. "And what I expressed to him, is that we do not have a roster spot open. That has not changed. And if we were to have a roster spot open, we'd still have to have a conversation about role, minutes ... and all those things."
Dumars later added, "that situation hasn't changed. It's the same as it was a month ago, two months ago ... it's the same situation."
For a guy who keeps saying the situation "hasn't changed," Dumars sure spends a lot of time chatting with C-Webb.