The Whiteboard: Celebrating Chris Webber and Friday mailbag questions

Sacramento Kings, The Whiteboard

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Every NBA fan has their own formative players, not just the ones they loved or admired but the ones who opened their eyes to what basketball could be. Chris Webber, who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, was a big one for me.

My experience with Webber starts in Sacramento, I didn’t really watch college basketball enough to know him as a star at Michigan and the nature of a pre-League Pass NBA offered precious few opportunities to see him play with the Golden State Warriors or Washington Bullets. But he became a permanent fixture on SportsCenter highlights during his first season in Sacramento and by the next season they were an ascending contender who featured on national television often.

His assist numbers in Sacramento weren’t different from his first few seasons but they were part of a much more interesting whole, a whirling, frenetic, full-court, no-look monster powered by him Vlade Divac and Jason Williams. The beauty of those Kings was that anything was possible, any possession could turn into something you’d never seen before.

Webber was ostensibly the star — the leading scorer, the one who landed the All-Star nominations and award buzz, the guy they’d ask to just go get a bucket when the moment called for something more mundane. You could see how much more raw talent he had than almost any player on the court, on either team, but it was a perfect synergy between skills, system and personnel. He willingly blended into everything else. It was, for me, an introduction that basketball could be about more than just getting the best player and letting him be better than the other team’s best player. He wasn’t Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett and he never got past Shaq or Kobe. But I’m glad to see people reflecting on what he was and to see him joining them in the Hall.

From Chris Webber to cheddar in this week’s Friday mailbag

We’re going to be adding a mailbag feature to The Whiteboard every Friday. If you’ve got questions about basketball, or topics that are basketball-adjacent or straight-up basketball-distant, for next week, reach out.

What’s a rule from another sport you’d like to see basketball adopt or adapt? — Kirk Henderson

I feel like I’ve mentioned this in other pieces and other places but I love the idea of teams being able to adjust some dimensions of their court, just like baseball teams do with the outfield fences at their stadiums. In baseball, the basic infield dimensions are constant but every team has a slightly different outfield shape. For example, there is a 30-foot difference between dead-center field at Fenway Park and at Comerica Park where the Tigers play.

Those different dimensions offer different incentives for roster construction — emphasizing pitching over hitting in a bigger park, or investing in power on a certain side of the plate to take advantage of a closer fence in left or right field.

I like the idea of bringing that to basketball. Keep the basic court dimensions the same in every arena but give teams the ability to set the 3-point line at whatever distance they’d like. For the sake of fairness, it would have to be the same at both ends of the court and there would need to be some restrictions on how often it could be changed — maybe once every five years or so, to promote continuity in approach. But it could change how teams structure their offensive and defensive systems, build their rosters, increase (or decrease) the importance of homecourt advantage and add a wrinkle that makes every game a big more unique.

It’s an absurd idea that will never happen, but I still love it.

I’ll take your Vermont DIPAs available in the Washington DC area power rankings. — Chris Stone

In case you didn’t know, I have the privilege of living in central Vermont. It’s not great for attending NBA basketball games but it’s perfect if you’re into beer and cheese (and skiing and maple syrup and progressive politics and about a billion other things). I consider myself as much of an expert in local beer as in basketball (which is to say not very) but I’m happy to share my limited expertise.

The first thing to know is that you can travel more than 10 miles in any direction in Vermont without passing a craft brewery and they all feature a double IPA. So there is a lot to choose from and my tastes change day to day. But currently, the stuff I’m really enjoying includes Northern Heights by Ten Bends, Pieces of Eight by Foley Brothers and Spectra from Four Quarters. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of them would be available in the D.C. area. However, Sip of Sunshine from Lawson’s Finest Liquids may have made its way that far south and it is fantastic a classic Vermont DIPA that lots of actual Vermonters still drink. (Heady Topper is mostly for the tourists).

Why is sharp cheddar cheese so much better in Vermont? — Patrick Schmidt

This is a very important question but one I wasn’t able to answer on my own. But some research reveals it comes down to a few things — regional differences in water and soil give grasses a different flavor and the cows that eat that grass have different flavors in their milk. Also, Vermont cheddar is generally not dyed orange with anatto like you’ll find in cheddars from other states, (looking at you Wisconsin). And if you’ve never had Vermont cheddar, this piece from Vermont Public Radio explains what you’re missing:

Edgar claims that Vermont cheddar’s flavor is notably different from that of other cheddars. It’s more “sharp, bitey and bitter,” boasting stronger sulfur tones than one would taste in cheddar from other regions. 

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The Ben Simmons discourse has jumped the shark. His glaring refusal to shoot makes it nearly impossible to have a good-faith conversation about him.

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