Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'No' on Mutumbo

The next time Dikembe Mutombo engages in a basketball-related finger wag, I hope it's to say no to resuming his career by playing for the San Antonio Spurs. According to Mutombo, "I will be in Boston or San Antonio by the end of the year.'' Briefly then, I'd like to rehearse the reasons why it would be a mistake for the Spurs to sign my favorite Congolese-American big man.
  • 48 Minutes of Hell has noted in various places that the Spurs have two pressing personnel needs: a young, athletic 3 that can get to the hoop and a big who can come away from the basket to guard face up 4s and 5s. The Spurs simply don't have the bodies on roster to man-up the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, David West and Amare Stoudemire. This could remain an issue into the offseason, and maybe beyond. But it's a certainty that Deke is not the man to answer the call.
  • Ian Mahinmi is rehabbing two ankles, one of which he injured while rehabbing the other. It's a laughable affair, I know. Once healthy, however, it really is in the Spurs best interest to keep Mahinmi's development on the fast track. This will necessitate minutes with the parent club. Mahinmi might regain his lungs by spending a short stint splashing around in the Toros' kiddy pool, but little else. The Spurs need to know if he can swim, and, if so, to what depths. The 10 minutes per game Popovich would find for Mutombo are better spent on Ian Mahinmi. Hold these words for later razzing: Mahinmi's end of the year numbers for San Antonio will be more impressive than Mutumbo's Boston totals.
  • The Spurs roster stands at 15. If the Spurs were to sign Mutumbo, they'd do well to waive Jacque Vaughn and bring him back as a coach, perhaps to George Hill. But they won't and wouldn't. Instead, the Spurs would waive either Anthony Tolliver or Malik Hairston. To my mind, it's too important a priority for the Spurs to get younger, and to do so on the cheap, to jettison the potential of Hairston and Tolliver as future contributors to the Silver and Black. In general, I'm in favor of the Spurs maintaining a fluid 15th spot of Austin Toros/San Antonio Spurs assignees and try-outs. Frankly, I'd be more excited to hear the Spurs had waived Vaughn in favor of, say, Courtney Sims than Dikembe Mutombo. I'm crazy that way. And, yes, I realize that Hairston, Tolliver, and, staying with the hypothetical, Sims would play little to no role with the Spurs this season.
  • The Spurs frontcourt, despite not having a quick-footed big that can come away from the hoop, is starting to round into form. It's doubtful that Mutombo adds anything. Okay, so this is obvious, but he's 42.
  • The Spurs current roster is capable of beating any team in the Western Conference in a series, with the possible exception of the Lakers. The Lakers are not hurt by Dikembe Mutombo. As a 5th big, however, Anthony Tolliver could create difficulties for LA. As we discussed early this season, the Lakers are susceptible to teams who can draw Bynum or Gasol out to guard perimeter-oriented forwards and centers, which is precisely the role of Matt Bonner and Anthony Tolliver.
Having said all that, Deke is a remarkable man. On a biographical note, I was in East Africa in January of 2005. This is a region whose lack of necessary, and typically basic, goods and services is difficult to overstate or adequately articulate. Dikembo Mutombo built a hospital in The Democratic Republic of the Congo through fund raising efforts. Now, he's trying to raise 2 million so that that hospital can deal with the overwhelming problems of malaria and measles. From Philly.com:

His Atlanta-based charitable foundation has teamed up with Denver-based Mobile Accord, Inc. to create a system by which people can make a contribution of $5 by sending the text message CONGO to 90999. The mobile channel is supported by AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile and US Cellular. (Anyone wishing to donate more than $5 should dial 1-800-251-0942.)

''If we can get 400,000 people to send a text, we can raise the money,'' Mutombo said in a telephone interview the other day. ''We'll know in three months what we have done. It is to save the lives of children in Congo. So many of them have malaria. A child dies every 35 seconds of malaria or measles. I know I am not the solution, I am just a piece of the puzzle.''

The hospital Mutombo has built is the first modern medical facility there in 40 years.

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