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Chris Webber left the floor with 1 minute, 26 seconds remaining to polite, but sustained applause. The 76ers were putting the finishing touches on what would be a 108-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Webber knew his own night hadn't been anything close to his own standards and expectations. He hasn't had one of those performances since he was acquired from Sacramento in a six-player blockbuster the night before the NBA trade deadline.

This was, in his eyes, pedestrian: five points, seven rebounds, five assists in 33 minutes. And that included a scoreless second half.

Still, there was applause.

"It felt good, but it didn't feel deserved," Webber said afterward. "It just shows how good the fans were. I don't think they did it for my play. I think they did it to encourage me. I respect that, and I appreciate that. I don't think my play deserved it."

Webber, remember, was the league's Western Conference Player of the Month in January with the Kings. He is a career 20-point/10-rebound contributor, a five-time All-Star. But asked whether he has been surprised that he has not been able to play up to that level since arriving, his answer was as succinct as it was painful for him: "Yes."

He's past searching for reasons. He is trying to focus on helping the Sixers' quest to reach the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. So far, it has been an uphill struggle.

"That's my main goal, to help us make the playoffs," he said. "I'll reassess this summer. That's all I can do. Anything else would be stupid... I'll try to make the adjustment. The biggest thing right now is making the playoffs. Anything can happen once you're there. That's what I'm preaching to the guys."

As uncomfortable as he has sometimes seemed on the court, he said he feels very much at home with his new teammates.

"The guys on the team are some cool guys," he said. "They make sure they keep me as right as possible with everything that's going on, and I thank them for that.

"It's frustrating [to play this way], but I'd rather it be frustrating in a 20-point win than being frustrated and not win."

He has gone from Golden State to Washington to Sacramento to the Sixers during his career. He had adjusted before. He never has had this type of problem.

Asked whether he could put a finger on why, he said: "I don't want to put a finger on it, but it's not because it's late in the season. I didn't become this player in 1 day."

Webber paused, then added: "If we make the playoffs, [people] wouldn't care why. All we need is an opportunity. If we get some wins, if we can get in, we can worry about everything else later.

"I believe in myself. I'm not making any noise about this, I'm not faking [about focusing on making the postseason]. That's really what it is. Believe me, I'm the one getting beat up, getting talked about. I feel it. But I'm focusing on playing."

His teammates, in turn, are focusing on similar goals.

"It can only get better [for Webber]," Aaron McKie said. "We have to adjust to him, and he has to adjust to us. He got traded in the middle of the season, and, coming to the situation we're in, trying to get to the playoffs, it's difficult. The spotlight gets bigger, and maybe he's pressing.

"But he's helping us win. We understand how important he is to us. We need him for the future, for the next 18 games. He's going to be a big part of that."
 
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