Webber's arrival means less minutes for other Warriors

Chris Webber  (Paul Sancya / The Associated Press)
Chris Webber (Paul Sancya / The Associated Press)

OAKLAND -- Adding a five-time All-Star such as Chris Webber undoubtedly increased the talent level on the Warriors' roster, but as the team prepares for its prodigal forward-center to make his return tonight against the Chicago Bulls, there remains one unanswered question: Whose minutes is he going to appropriate?

It's a complex problem whose answer is going to shape the remainder of Golden State's season.

Even though coach Don Nelson is starting Webber alongside swingman Stephen Jackson and guards Baron Davis and Monta Ellis, the hope is that Webber's presence will afford those other three players a bit more rest.

That could be accomplished by allowing Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus to move from power forward back to small forward or even shooting guard. But that plan assumes that Webber will be able to play effectively with the team's other big men, Andris Biedrins and Al Harrington, rather than simply cannibalizing their minutes.

"Just wait and see," Nelson said Wednesday of the minutes shake-up. "You'll find out (how it'll work). I don't know myself."

One thing seems known: Rookie forward Brandan Wright, the No. 8 overall selection in June's NBA draft, is going to be casualty No. 1 of Webber's addition. Wright was already drawing scant playing time at his natural position of power forward, and in the team's just-concluded five-day minicamp, he was often seen playing small forward in scrimmages.

Given the position change and Wright's youth, it's no wonder Nelson responded with a flat "no" when he was asked Saturday if there was any chance Wright could become a member of the team's regular rotation by April.

The inclusion of Webber in the starting lineup means that there will be another quality member of the roster on the bench every night — either Barnes, Biedrins or Harrington — since only one of that trio will start where two had previously. That, in turn, might convince Nelson to be a little less stingy in doling out playing time to his reserves.

At 34, Webber is the oldest Warrior. Just how old? Well, just ask some of his teammates where they were when Webber made his original Golden State debut, on Nov. 9, 1993.

"In 1993, I was in high school," Jackson said. "I was chasing girls and I was skipping class, looking for the dice game."