Four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Dikembe Mutombo, made an appearance this morning at the NBA Store in New York City. Along with NBA Hall of Famer, Bob Lanier, Mt. Mutombo teamed up with the NBA, iHoops and Right Guard to announce the Right Guard Total Defense Challenge – the nationwide search for the “Best Defensive Stopper.”
Beginning in February and ending in July, basketball players of all ages can upload videos of their best defensive highlights to iHoops.com. The winner will get a trip to see an NBA game as well as participate in a defensive clinic put on by an NBA player.
Mutombo played 18 seasons in the NBA for the Nuggets, Hawks, Sixers, Nets, Knicks and Rockets – where he spent the last five seasons before retiring last spring. He made eight All-Star teams and is the second in NBA history in total blocked shots (3,256). In 1,196 career games, Dikembe averaged 9.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 2.8 bpg.
After the Q&A panel session, I was able to fire away a few questions of my own to Deke…
Dime: What do you think of the Rockets this season?
Dikembe Mutombo: You know they’re playing good despite the loss of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. My team, I think they’re playing very well. I went there a few times to watch the games. To see the effort that’s being brought by Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry…it’s amazing.
Aaron Brooks might not make the All-Star team, but his statistics are a lot higher than guys that will go to the All-Star Game. Carl Landry, to me, is the best sixth man in the game right now. If he doesn’t win the Sixth Man of the Year, I’m going to be very disappointed. I feel very proud, I was able to help him and look after him. I’m happy he got a chance to listen and to put everything I said to him at practice. Now, I want him to be recognized for his effort. He’s averaging all these points off the bench, I think he deserves more recognition. There’s not much that’s being said about him. If there was a way the coaches can select somebody coming off the bench as the sixth man to make the All-Star team, I think Carl Landry deserves it. He’s improving on both ends of the floor.
I think they can make the playoffs, if they keep playing tough. They remind me of our Denver Nuggets team (the ’93-94 team that upset the top seed Seattle Supersonics in the first round). You know, there wasn’t a major star on the team, everybody felt they were all equal. We had one mind set and one main goal. That’s how I see the Houston Rockets. I’m still friends with so many of the guys.
Dime: What about Tracy McGrady? Have you been able to talk to him recently through this tough time for him?
DM: It’s very tough what Tracy McGrady is going through. Sometimes it’s hard to read what’s going on upstairs. I think they’re feeling that Tracy needs some time to heal up, but Tracy’s feeling he needs to get in the game and continue to improve little by little. I think that’s where they have their differences. Beside that, I don’t think there’s nothing else that’s causing problems. He believe he can still play and want to prove that. And they believe he needs to sit and wait.
Dime: How has center play changed from the ’90s to today?
DM: I think it’s a good question. Many people believe that, for you to win, you need a center who can score a lot. But in the ’80s and ’90s, there were centers who can rebound and block shots. The approach of the game, changed a lot. I would like them to go back to the old days when we used to play the game. Right Guard and iHoops are sending the right message, saying the game needs to go back to how we used to.
Dime:Now that you’re retired, which players do you like watching?
DM: I can say only that I love this game, I love the NBA. I cannot pick favorites or one of the teams. I just love all of the guys who are getting a chance to play on this level because it’s not easy. You have to be lucky and you have to bring your best. (note: Mutombo said in the panel Q&A that some of the defensive big men in the NBA right now that impress him are: Emeka Okafor, Marcus Camby and Dwight Howard)
Dime: Who was the toughest player you had to match up against in your career?
DM: I think Hakeem Olajuwan was in the top. Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, David Robinson. Shaq was not easy to guard. He slowed down a little, but when he was Shaquille O’Neal, he was tough.