Mutombo watching Nets run to titlePosted: Sunday June 01, 2003 12:39 PM
A proud man, Mutombo has played in four of the Nets' 14 playoff games, and it seems doubtful that the eight-time All Star and four-time defensive player of the year will have a big role in the finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Mutombo had played only three of his 33 postseason minutes in the past two rounds.
When he talks now, Mutombo chooses his words carefully. When he complained about his playing time in the first round, coach Byron Scott sat him even more.
"I will not really keep going back and forth of what Byron says and what Mutombo says," the 7-foot-2 center said. "I'm going to stay focused. I'm going to be ready, prepare myself mentally and physically as well.
"If I get a chance to play, I would love to go there and do the things I love, to play defense, rebound and block shots, and help the team to win," Mutombo added. "If I don't get a chance to play, I will be with my teammates and cheer for them."
However, things never seemed to go right with the Nets.
Mutombo never fit in New Jersey's motion offense and his season took a disastrous turn around Thanksgiving when he tore ligaments in his right wrist in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
There was a four-month rehabilitation after surgery and Mutombo didn't get back in the lineup until late March. He played in eight games and then had to deal with a tragedy. His 40-year-old brother, Selu, died unexpectedly in the Congo.
Mutombo averaged 5.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 24 regular season games. Before this season, he had missed 28 games in 11 seasons.
The playoffs have been another disappointment in what has been a horrible year for the guy the Nets call "Deke." He has been a "did not play, coach's decision," 10 times.
"My game plan is the same as it has been after we played Boston [and] Detroit," Scott said. "If I need him, I really hope and think that he'll be ready."
Mutombo said the past three days of practice have made him feel like a basketball player again, which might be important for the Nets. They acquired him because Shaquille O'Neal dominated the middle in the Lakers sweep of the Nets in last year's Finals.
Kenyon Martin will get the assignment on Duncan, the two-time MVP, but foul problems and a big San Antonio lineup could be the break Mutombo needs.
It's also possible Mutombo, who averaged 16.8 points and 12.2 rebounds with the Sixers in the 2001 Finals against the Lakers, might continue to sit.
"Those are the things that happen in your career," Mutombo said. "It's a moment that you will shine and there is a moment that you will lay low, just like the sun. The sun doesn't come out all day long."
Mutombo has tried to make the best of the situation. When the Nets swept Boston in the conference semifinals, he took a broom from a young courtside attendant and swept the floor.
He smiled with everyone when the Nets swept Detroit for the conference title and pushed their postseason winning streak to 10 games.
However, he wonders how much he would be able to enjoy his first title if he really didn't play a part in it. His lasting memory would be his rehabilitation.
"Let me say that I wish it would not happen," Mutombo said. "It's hard to understand. It's very hard."
"I would love to see myself playing," he said.