2001 NBA Finals

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Finals Notebook

Mutombo giving Sixers more than just defense

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Posted: Wednesday June 13, 2001 8:34 PM
  Dikembe Mutombo, Horace Grant Dikembe Mutombo blocks a shot by the Lakers' Horace Grant during the first quarter of Game 2. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- When they traded for Dikembe Mutombo in February, the Philadelphia 76ers were thinking about defense and the 7-foot-2 center went on to win the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award for the fourth time.

But Mutombo is more than just defense. He is averaging a double-double in the postseason with 13.7 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. He went into Wednesday night's Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers with a streak of 11 consecutive double-doubles.

And just to keep his defensive reputation intact, Mutombo had 69 postseason blocks, averaging 3.3 per game.

One more Laker fan

Add one more Lakers fan for the NBA Finals.

Los Angeles guard Brian Shaw returned to the team Wednesday, beaming after the birth of his third child.

Bianca Nicole Shaw, 7 pounds, 7 ounces, was born in Oakland, Calif., at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, a day off on the playoff schedule. Shaw flew to California to be present when his wife, Nikki, delivered the baby.

Vagabond coach

With stops at six NBA teams, four seasons in the ABA and collegiate stops with a Final Four team at Kansas and an NCAA tournament championship team at UCLA, Larry Brown has been described as a serial coach, always searching for a better situation.

He bristled at the description.

"Everybody's looking for the best situation," the 76ers coach said. "Anybody that is in a profession is seeking to be the best at it or do the very best job they possibly can. That's what I've always tried to do.

"If you look at my profession, I think guys can do a great job as a coach and they're not there very long. People tell them when they have to leave. I've been the one that, fortunately, has been able to dictate when I leave.

"What does 'serial coach' mean? What is Phil Jackson if he just coaches the Lakers and Chicago? What would that be? Smart?"

Cosmetic concerns

Shaquille O'Neal believes Dikembe Mutombo has perfected flops to draw offensive fouls. Mutombo contends the calls are legitimate and as evidence offers the stitches in his mouth after getting nailed in Game 3.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressed concern for the 76ers center.

"I worry for Dikembe," he said. "I have a little sign on the board, 'Deke leads with his beak.' He's getting his face beat up a little bit by sticking his face in there. It's part of what gets him the offensive fouls, even though it's difficult to take that."

Hut one! Hut two!

Allen Iverson was a sandlot and high school football quarterback, accustomed to the bumps and bruises that come with that sport and position.

"I try to use everything that I learned in football," he said. "Just try to use it in my basketball game as far as trying to get open, to getting knocked to the ground, knowing how to fall.

"Basketball is a totally different sport. Not supposed to be that much contact in basketball. But I guess in my game contact comes with it. I used to tell my dad that I never wanted to play basketball because I thought it was soft. But now I know that's a joke, because it's not soft at all."

Dance with me, Shaq

As big as Shaquille O'Neal is, he is agile and nimble around the basket. And that impresses his teammates as much as his size and power.

"Shaq's unbelievable," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "I think if you watch Shaquille play, you see this 320-pound guy, 7-1, able to push the ball. He pivots. He's able to pirouette. What Shaq does is unbelievable. He plays kind of like a guard, similar to Hakeem Olajuwon. Only difference is Shaq is 320 pounds."

Pivotal players

The matchup in the middle of Shaquille O'Neal and Dikembe Mutombo has spiced the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.

For basketball historians, the image of O'Neal and Mutombo beating on each other was a reminder of previous center showdowns.

"This reminds me a lot of when I was growing up," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "Every night it was Russell against Chamberlain or Chamberlain against Willis Reed. Walt Bellamy ... Nate Thurmond, there was always terrific play in the middle."

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