Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Xavier McDaniel, I Presume..."

(Since the Knicks continue to surrender second half leads and lose games I figured that we're going to need to do something else with this space on occasion. With that in mind I've trekked through the wilds of the Internets to find the latest news on some of our long-lost Knicks from happier times.)

Though only a Knickerbocker for a short time (2003-2004), Dikembe Mutombo is someone that all of us know very well. The image of him laying beneath that hoop in Seattle, arms extended, clutching that basketball after his Nuggets upended the top-seeded Sonics is one of the iconic images for an entire generation of hoops fans. And, so is his finger-wag. I think the fact that he has moved around to so many teams (Nuggets, Hawks, Sixers, Nets, Knicks, Rockets) keeps him from being as beloved as he deserves. He is a 4-time Defensive Player of the Year, 8-time All Star and owner of the best Cookie Monster impression this side of Sesame Street. He is Hall of Famer on the court and perhaps the greatest humanitarian off the court that the NBA has ever seen. And, four years ago Isiah Thomas, that great evaluator of talent, told him that he was washed up and should hit the beach.

Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle was talking with Dikembe about the fact that he is being honored by the NBA and the Rockets for his impressive career and the conversation veered towards the manner in which then-General Manager (but not yet coach) Isiah dismissed the veteran center's ability to contribute and traded him unceremoniously to the Chicago Bulls, for whom he would never play a minute. Mutombo explains to Blinebury in the Chronicle that it was Isiah's insulting words that drive him to excel still and that have made him able to step into the starting lineup the past two seasons when Yao has gone down with injury.

"It's still a wound... My wife and I still talk about it. It's still a bit sad to see the commissioner coming and all those people coming to celebrate the 17 years of my career and accomplishments and you look back and say that about (four) years ago, I had a guy tell me that I couldn't play basketball no more, to go to the beach and onto vacation. That's the same guy who's losing his job tomorrow. ... I never said nothing (to Thomas),' Mutombo said. 'The last time we played at the Garden (Jan. 9), my wife asked me to go shake his hand, to just forgive him. I went and shook his hand and I told him, 'On behalf of my wife, I want to shake your hand and I forgive you for everything you've done to me."

Dikembe is a deservedly proud man and he pulls no punches when he talks about Isiah. And, I love it. I'm glad that the only guy in the NBA that Isiah Thomas has successully motivated during his (soon to be over?!?!) tenure in New York is playing in Houston. I'm glad that Isiah shipped out the guy who led the league in blocked shots four times while his teams ranks last in that category by a country mile.

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