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NBA Beat: Chris Webber says Kings can turn negative into positive

Chris Webber urges the Arco Arena crowd to turn up the volume during a 2002 playoff game against Dallas. He said the Kings’ fans made the building special for him.
Chris Webber urges the Arco Arena crowd to turn up the volume during a 2002 playoff game against Dallas. He said the Kings’ fans made the building special for him. Sacramento Bee file

Chris Webber remains a beloved figure in Sacramento, where he starred for the Kings during their heyday of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Webber, whose No. 4 was retired by the Kings, was in Sacramento on Thursday as part of TNT’s broadcast team and spoke to The Sacramento Bee about the Kings, DeMarcus Cousins, Kobe Bryant and more.

What’s it like to see Vlade Divac as the Kings’ general manager?

I’m happy for him. He’s always been a great leader, and we’ve talked about many things and many situations. I’m just really happy for him. This is nothing new for him. He’s been in charge of basketball operations for his Olympic team and other professional teams where he’s from, so to me, this makes sense as the next step in his career.

I’ve been impressed with his game since Day One, so anything he does, I kind of expect it.

Chris Webber, on DeMarcus Cousins

Some have said the way Divac has tried to rebuild the Kings is similar to how the team turned around when both of you arrived in the 1998-99 season. Do you see similarities?

No. I don’t really think there can be similarities because Sacramento traded for me and I didn’t want to be here, and I had to change the culture that year. I don’t think it can be the same thing, but I think he definitely knows what he’s doing, and I expect great things.

What’s your take on this season’s Kings?

It’s rough. They’re one of the worst teams in the league as far as record, so that’s really tough. But having been on bad teams before, you can’t cry about the fact of the matter. You have to change it. The fact that they started out terrible, the fact that the team is not that good, only gives them a chance to turn it around. If they look at it like that, I do believe they will turn it around.

What have you seen from DeMarcus Cousins as he tries to expand his game this season?

He’s the best big man in the game to me, period. And I would say he has been for the last two years. I’d say the only difference between (him) and Anthony Davis is the sentiment and the, I guess, the goodwill. But he’s something special; I’ve said it the whole time. He’s one of my favorite players in the league since the day he stepped in the league. I’ve been impressed with his game since Day One, so anything he does, I kind of expect it. The sky’s the limit for this kid.

Do you believe the sentiment toward Cousins will change if the Kings win more?

That’s part of it, but I think a lot of things you can’t change. KG (Kevin Garnett) didn’t change his demeanor on the court, and at one time people didn’t like KG’s demeanor on the court. I think you just have to live long enough and put a lot of good vibes out there. If he does that and just worries about his guys in the locker room, it’ll all make sense. We see what’s happening with Cam Newton. Cam has been the same guy forever. He still hates losing, he’s still a nice guy, but winning this year and a little nice press, he deserves to be MVP in my opinion. But the press and everything has changed because you’ve been able to see him in a different light, and I hope the play of the team and DeMarcus’ leadership, both on the team and in the community, will allow people to see who he is.

Any memories stand out from Sleep Train, well, Arco Arena, when you played here?

Man, I love Arco. So many memories from driving under and bouncing Biggie (Notorious B.I.G.). Every time we played, I would play Biggie or Pac (Tupac Shakur). The vendors up under, I would see them bobbing their heads and waiting for me to come in. It was awesome seeing everyone in the back from the food vendors to the ushers. I remember seeing Sign Lady and coming out of the tunnel to my right – there she is with her husband, the Body Guard, as we nicknamed him. It was a very special place. The building is the fans, and the fans with the cowbells who were there from the time we beat Utah (in a 1999 playoff game) to the time we lost to the Lakers in Game 7 (in 2002).

The fact that they started out terrible, the fact that the team is not that good, only gives them a chance to turn it around.

Chris Webber, on this season’s Kings

Watching the way the Warriors play and their start, what impresses you most about them?

I just love how they play like a team. I wish we could have won a championship here, but I know for a fact the tapes they watch offensively are a lot of Sacramento tapes from back then. Talk to a lot of players I know, and it’s something they’ve taken from and made better. What I really like is it’s not about stats; it’s not about guys getting assists or points. It’s about them winning every night. They recognize who their best player is, and they fall in line behind their best player. I just love the teamwork. They average a league-high 29 assists because of teamwork. Not because they have the greatest player in the world (Stephen Curry), which they do, but it’s all about their teamwork and responsibility. Draymond (Green) and Andre (Iguodala) holding guys accountable and everybody staying in their lane and following the leader, I love it.

Your thoughts on Kobe Bryant, knowing this will be his last season?

I think he’s done great for the league. He’s been awesome. He’s one of my favorite players, I played against him and watched, and I continue to tell him he’s lucky he got to play with another Hall of Famer in Shaq (O’Neal). If we had another Hall of Famer, we would have beat them. But he’s the consummate player and professional, and it’s been an honor watching him. There’s only a few players that I revel in: ‘Wow, I got to watch.’ He’s one. Peyton Manning’s another. As somebody who competed against him, I know what he brought every night and how he laid it on the line. I’m just happy we competed against each other and I got to see him up close.

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Last words

“We predicted it wrong. That’s my fault. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I’m sure I’ll make more.”

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie to ESPN on believing guard Kendall Marshall would recover from a knee injury in time for the season opener after signing as a free agent. He debuted for the 1-23 76ers on Friday.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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