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NEW YORK — Philadelphia’s Chris Webber didn’t even try to hide his fury when replaced for defensive purposes down the stretch against the Knicks late last month. Everyone within earshot heard him berate assistant John Kuester, who’s apparently responsible for such substitutions.

Webber then spewed louder behind closed doors, says a source, only this time his rage was directed at 76ers head coach Maurice Cheeks.

“That’s why I was brought here, to be on the floor at the end of close games, not be sitting on the sidelines,” he fumed.

So a locker room snitch claims.

A Sixer source disputes that version. Yes, it’s readily admitted, Webber and Kuester had words during the game.

“But Chris did not yell at Maurice in the dressing room. John tried to discuss the situation afterward with Chris and things were said. Maurice interceded when he got in there and settled it.”

The next day at practice Webber and Kuester smoothed things over.


Just for the record, Larry Brown didn’t return to Detroit last week, he was recalled.

No, he wasn’t overcome by the emotion of being embraced by his former starters as everyone seems to surmise . . . he was crying about the taxes he had to pay on his Pistons’ payoff.

Naturally, once again, the theme was All About Larry. As usual, it could easily be argued his disruptive influence impacted the Pistons’ play.

Intent on proving to the world he’s a practicing players’ coach, Home Town Brown continued his questionable exercise of starting native sons. That explains (though hardly excuses) his decision to replace Channing Frye with Michigan’s Maurice Taylor. As you recall, Matt Barnes, deleted yesterday from the roster, got the intro treatment in Sacramento and Trevor Ariza was out there for the opening tip in Los Angeles.

Now we know why Stephon Marbury gets the nod in New York.

As you can see, this Larry Brown promenade isn’t going to subside until he accepts his next dream job.


Denver Nuggets assistant Scott Brooks — 0-4 when George Karl is suspended — is being sent down to the NBDL to work on his substitution pattern, timeliness of times out and capacity to keep Carmelo Anthony healthy.

Doug Moe and Adrian Dantley plan to flip a coin to see who takes charge the next time NBA VP Stu Jackson sees fit to sentence Karl to sit.

Meanwhile, no coach challenged the integrity of the referees more defiantly and deviously than Jeff Van Gundy did during last season’s playoffs against the Mavericks.

Yet the cost for advancing a malignant notion was mere money, a $100,000 fine.

How come David Stern only threatened to deactivate the Rockets’ coach but docked the Nuggets’ coach two games pay ($80,000; Denver was penalized an additional $100,000) for benignly mouthing off about the refs . . . clearly duped by Vince Carter’s refined method acting and failed to see him initiate contact (left elbow) on a critical possession?

I’ve always maintained you need at least one conflict of interest in order to be successful. Van Gundy’s has Stu Jackson (his former assistant coach). All the dashboard lights indicated he was intimately involved in last season’s skulduggery.

It will be very interesting to see whether Jackson remains the VP of Violence at season’s end, when deputy commissioner Russ Granik’s retirement becomes official.

While on the subject of those who whistle while they work, a remarkable piece of officiating last Thursday evening sent Kobe to the line for three free throws after his long distance jumper against the Jazz bounced off the rim on the last possession of regulation.

It was clear to all (but the only three who count) Devin Brown never touched Kobe, who turned sideways upon landing as if he had been hit on the hip.

Not only were the refs suckered into making an incorrect call, but it was also unfashionably late. The Lakers exploited that losing parlay for the OT win.

Asked about the play in a postgame interview, Kobe had trouble keeping a straight face. He had again beaten the system . . . this time without writing a check.

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