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NBA [HOME] June 7, 2003

Dikembe Mutombo Interview





Nets center Dikembe Mutombo spoke to the media after New Jersey's 2003 NBA finals game 2 win on the road in San Antonio.

Q: How did it feel to get in there and finally make a real big impact in a playoff game?

Dikembe Mutombo: It was great. It kind of gave the coaches a lot of confidence that I can come out and contribute so much for this ballclub, and tonight, I knew that I was going to get more minutes than I did the night before and I was more prepared mentally, and physically, as well.

Q: Does this change the perception of the whole series, because the Nets were supposed to be the smaller team and now with you, you can matchup with Duncan or Robinson.

Dikembe Mutombo: I knew that it -- we came in here trying to win these first two games and we let the first game slip away and then we felt that tonight was our night. We jumped on them from the beginning and we didn't give them the chance to breathe. We knew that we played against a great team that got the league's Most Valuable Player. It's a matter of just being aggressive and that's what they did tonight.

Q: Is there any guarantee now that you are going to get more minutes or is it going to be game by game?

Dikembe Mutombo: (Laughs). I haven't got a chance to talk to no coaches, the assistant or the head coach. Hopefully maybe we are going to sit down and talk about that. There's no guarantee whether that's going to happen but I'm just glad that they are just giving me a chance to play the game again.

Q: How does it feel, whenever you do something positive, it seemed to really energize the players, how does it feel for you to see your teammates react that way?

Dikembe Mutombo: I think one thing we do is we support each other, despite who is playing, five, ten, 20 minutes or 30 minutes, every time that person is coming off the court, everybody needs to stand up and be very supportive. That's something that we did up there and we showed the world that we've got all character on our team, we are unselfish and we want to play as a group and we want to accomplish something big. These are moments for us. This is the year that we can do it.

Q: We haven't seen the finger wag in a while?

Dikembe Mutombo: Maybe you missed it. (Laughter).

Q: Why did you break it out tonight?

Dikembe Mutombo: Finger wagging is something that I do just automatically. It's not like I plan to do it, even though the league asked me to not do it no more, but I was able to do it, I don't know what made me do it tonight. I hope they don't fine me. (Laughter).

Q: What did you guys show and prove to the Spurs tonight after winning this game?

Dikembe Mutombo: I think our defensive ability. One thing we understand coming in this series is that everything they do is going to go through Tim Duncan. He is their playmaker and how he goes is how the Spurs go. We cannot stop him but if we can find a way to slow him down, we are going to have great success in this series, and tonight was that night. We were kind of slowing him down. We made him think twice, sometimes three times, before he did any move up there, and we challenged him every time when he was going to the basket. Then we was able to win this game.

Q: You're a very proud guy and this year has been tough for you. How have you dealt with this season mentally?

Dikembe Mutombo: I think a lot had to do with praying. For some reason, I've just been praying more than I have done in my life. I felt that I haven't seen so many things happen in my life before this as happened to me this year, not just the injury, when I have to spend four months with not playing and then when I try to come back after long therapy, things happen in my family, my brother passing away just before the playoffs start. It was very tough. It was very tough. I'm glad that spiritually I've been much stronger to be able to hold myself and don't lose focus on what we are trying to accomplish here.

I knew that my team would lead me down the road, despite our success, but it was a long time to come out and play.

Q: Was this the first time that you felt like you've been a contributor in the playoffs?

Dikembe Mutombo: I felt so good. Two nights ago, I was very good for a few minutes, I got my feet wet in there. But tonight, I think I showed so many things up there, in a positive way, and I think -- I hope the coaches will take a good note of that and maybe give me a chance to play more. I'm not asking to start. I'm just saying that the young kids, they played extremely well during my absence, and I'm not trying to dominate and try to push nobody away. I just want to feel like I'm part of this group, and I was not feeling it for a moment. It was hard for me. But that's the world that we are living in.

Q: Do you feel like this team is stronger than the team that you played on with the 76ers, and do you have a better chance of winning this time?

Dikembe Mutombo: I would not compare our series to the Final against the Lakers. It's a different matchup. You have Kobe Bryant, who is one of the Most Valuable Players in this league and you've got Shaq, one of the most dominant centers in this league; that was a different matchup.

Coming against San Antonio, we knew that there's one man that we need to slow down, which is Tim Duncan. If we can do it and continue to do it properly and work on the rest of the guys, and also Tony Parker who is playing very well for them, and I think in Game 3 we are going to find a way to have a good answer for him. is the online leader in pro basketball coverage.

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