Webber needs a timeout

Webber grill: Bites loves college basketball. OK, maybe that’s not really true considering Bites didn’t watch a complete game all season until the NCAA Tournament rolled around. What Bites actually loves is good drama, athletes digging deep for a last shot at glory and the purity of competition that the Road to the Final Four represents.

Watching the Indiana-Maryland championship game on Monday night, Bites was reminded of some of the thrilling finales from years past, but none more than the 1993 final between North Carolina and the University of Michigan. Yet that focus had less to do with basketball than current events here in Sacramento.

In case you don’t remember, Michigan was trailing with just seconds left in the game, as Michigan star Chris Webber brought the ball up court, then stopped suddenly and called timeout. But because his team had no more timeouts, his action was a technical foul, thus ensuring a heartbreaking loss for his team.

Fast-forward to this year, when Webber is an aloof star forward for the Sacramento Kings and has been drawn into a scandal with roots back in his college days, thanks to the indictment of Michigan booster Ed Martin on charges of running an illegal gambling business, conspiracy and money laundering.

Part of the indictment includes allegations that Webber accepted $280,000 in “loans” from Martin during those early years, a violation of NCAA rules. But Webber has indignantly refused to answer media questions about the affair, claiming it’s personal. Not that Sacramento Bee basketball beat writer Martin McNeal has pushed very hard, seeing as he has a book deal with the mercurial superstar.

Webber did finally address the issue in an interview with ESPN over the weekend, denying he accepted money from Martin. Answering that legitimate question is something he should have done right away instead of throwing one of his hissy fits. Unlike his tirade over media prying into whether he’s dating model Tyra Banks, this latest incident involves questions that he has a professional obligation to answer.

Bites would love to be a fly on the locker room wall when McNeal finds the courage to ask Webber: “Considering that Ed Martin was accused by the government of running an illegal gambling business—and apparently paying you at the same time—did you really not know there weren’t any timeouts left in that NCAA Championship game?”

Somehow, Bites doesn’t think that question will get asked. Maybe it’ll make the book.

Tale of two cities: The Los Angeles Police Department has been plagued by conflicts with the city’s African-American community, police misconduct scandals and poor relations between Police Chief Bernard Parks and his rank-and-file officers.

So city leadership there is now contemplating dumping Parks, and a top candidate for his successor is Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas Jr., whose tenure has been marked by conflicts with this city’s African-American community, police misconduct scandals and poor relations with his rank-and-file officers.

Perhaps the LAPD headhunters should have attended this week’s Sacramento City Council hearing, at which officer union President David Topaz rolled through a litany of staffing and other problems for which he blames Venegas.

“Things aren’t working here in a lot of ways, and we need a change,” Topaz told Bites, adding that he’d love to see Venegas ship out, although he’s not sure whether he’ll have anything good to say when his L.A. police brethren call for a recommendation.

Fun with numbers: Speaking of

troubled cops, Attorney General Bill Lockyer last week released the 2001 crime stats, which show that crime increased by 5.8 percent from the previous year, up in every category except rape and aggravated assaults.

As crime was dropping during the ’90s, Bill Jones and others who spearheaded Three Strikes and other tough-on-crime measures took credit, even though crime rates usually drop during prosperous times.

So should we now blame them and their policies for the increase? Probably not, even though we should under their logic. In reality, crime rates rise and fall, no matter how “tough” we get. That’s just something to keep in mind at the polls this fall when voters will be asked to reform the Three Strikes law.