Making the best of it
Atlanta deals Mutombo in six-player trade
Updated: Friday February 23, 2001 1:41 AM
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.
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.