Deke in a Box

01.24.09 10 years ago 33 Comments
Dikembe Mutombo (photo. NBA)

When Yao Ming bruised his knee in the first half of last night’s Rockets/Pacers game and had to sit out the entire second half, it seemed only natural that Dikembe Mutombo would step in and replace him. But even as the Pacers kept getting into the lane and making a living at the free-throw line (33-for-38 FT’s), Rick Adelman kept Deke on the bench, yet another DNP-CD for the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer.

Since re-signing with the Rockets on Dec. 30, Mutombo has only played once, a four-minute cameo against the Lakers on Jan. 13. But with Yao unavailable this time and the Rockets getting worked over inside while Luis Scola played center, why didn’t Deke play on Friday? From the Associated Press game recap:

Adelman said Yao’s absence hurt because his backup, 7-2 Dikembe Mutombo, didn’t match up well with the Pacers.

“It makes us small,” Adelman said. “They (the Pacers) get to the basket. That’s a tough team to play Dikembe against because they’re so active.”

So if Adelman doesn’t trust Mutombo against up-tempo teams — and the Rockets play in the Western Conference — what was the point of picking him up? I believe Mutombo can still be useful at this stage in his career: Aside from his locker-room leadership, plus a wealth of knowledge and experience, he’s got rebounding instincts, (still) adequate shot-blocking skills, six fouls and sharp elbows that he uses strategically, and he can spell Yao for stretches without Houston’s offense suffering too much (assuming T-Mac is on the court).

But that’s only if Adelman chooses to take his backup center out of the box and use him. Going by the coach’s logic last night, Mutombo wouldn’t be in his plans if the Rockets run across the Jazz, Nuggets, Blazers or Hornets in the postseason.

Everyone loves Dikembe, including me, and everyone wants to see him in the League as long as possible for the sheer entertainment value. But did the Rockets make a mistake in re-signing him? Should they have gone for a younger, more athletic big man, maybe somebody from the D-League? Would Dikembe have been better off signing with another team like the Celtics or Spurs?

Do you think Mutombo can still help the Rockets?

Source: Yahoo! Sports

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