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Making the best of it

Atlanta deals Mutombo in six-player trade

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Thursday February 22, 2001 12:37 PM
Updated: Friday February 23, 2001 1:41 AM

  Dikembe Mutombo Dikembe Mutombo (right) may be the inside presence the Sixers need to take them to the Finals. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Dikembe Mutombo was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Philadelphia 76ers in a six-player deal Thursday just hours before the NBA trading deadline.

Mutombo and Roshown McLeod go to the 76ers, who have the NBA's best record, for Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed and Pepe Sanchez.

Sixers coach Larry Brown said the trade was designed to help lift a team that has struggled with injuries throughout the year through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

"We're trying to get out of the East, and I think it's imperative for us to win as many games as we can right now to position ourselves so we can get out of the East," Brown said.

The 76ers beat out several teams -- including the Knicks, Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Suns -- who were also in the hunt for the 7-foot-2 Mutombo, the league's leading rebounder and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Philadelphia ended up paying a high price -- they traded away Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes in recent seasons to acquire Ratliff and Kukoc -- but the Sixers decided it wasn't too much for a center who they believe will enhance their chances of winning a championship.

Trade Breakdown
Sixers get:
C Dikembe Mutombo (14.1 rpg)*
F Roshown McLeod (9.9 ppg)

Hawks get:
C Theo Ratliff (3.7 bpg)*
G/F Toni Kukoc (41 percent 3-pt. FG)
C Nazr Mohammed (third-year player)
G Pepe Sanchez (first-year player)

* Leads league

SI's Marty Burns
Sixers head coach Larry Brown is going for it all, the 2000-01 NBA title.

That's why he's willing to risk disrupting his team's chemistry by giving up the popular Theo Ratliff and key reserve Toni Kukoc for Dikembe Mutombo.

Brown and his staff feel the 7-foot-2 Mutombo gives them a legitimate center to match up with Shaq or the Twin Towers in the Finals. As a veteran All- Star, Mutombo will get more respect and leeway from referees. He's also a better offensive rebounder than Ratliff, something Brown knows they will need in the playoffs when teams gang up on Allen Iverson and force him to take tougher shots.

Click here for more analysis.  

The Sixers believe Mutombo, 34, will match up well against the Western Conference's big, elite centers -- particularly Shaquille O'Neill of Los Angeles, San Antonio's David Robinson, Portland's Arvydas Sabonis and Sacramento's Vlade Divac. The Sixers had originally pegged Ratliff as a power forward, not as a center.

"I'd be lying to you all if I didn't say this guy could help us win a championship," Sixers star Allen Iverson said. "He's a rebounder; he's an intimidator; he can change the game all by himself. I feel this is a great opportunity for the team."

Mutombo said he was looking forward to playing with Iverson.

"I'm going to Philadelphia to play with a great player, Allen Iverson, a scoring machine who plays with tremendous energy," he said in a statement read by Brown. "The opportunity to win a championship is certainly there."

Brown said he wasn't worried about altering the team's chemistry so late in the season.

"I discussed it with a number of players," Brown said. "I just said we'd never do this trade if you guys aren't comfortable with it. And to a man, they all said they hate to see their teammates go, but, 'If it helps us get better, if it gives us a chance to win, we're going to leave it up to you guys to decide.'"

Ratliff's injury was also a factor in the trade.

"While Theo is getting healed, we have Mutombo out there, and he might give us a chance to secure a home-court situation and give us the best chance to move on," Brown said.

Atlanta, which has been shopping Mutombo since last summer, gets a younger center in Ratliff, who was having a dominating season, leading the league in blocked shots before fracturing his wrist earlier this month. Ratliff underwent surgery on Wednesday and is expected to remain sidelined until mid-March.

The Hawks also get a player in Kukoc who can step right into their starting lineup alongside Brevin Knight, Jason Terry and Lorenzen Wright.

Related information
Your Turn: Interactive GM
Hawks may be close to trading Mutombo
Sixers head coach Larry Brown insists he'll only ask Mutombo to continue to do what he's been doing in Atlanta. (171 K)
Brown points out that the Sixers have won throughout the season with "interchangeable parts." (117 K)
Iverson ultimately supports Larry Brown's decision. (154 K)
Allen Iverson isn't quite sure what to make of the deal. (146 K)
Dikembe Mutombo is excited about the opportunity to play with fellow ex-Hoya Iverson. (167 K)
Hawks general manager Pete Babcock wishes Mutombo nothing but the best. (63 K)
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