Backup center D.J. Mbenga won the rights to L.A.’s third center position, allowing the Lakers to send Chris Mihm to Memphis for a draft pick, yet still saw only 7.9 minutes per game in the regular season.
In those few minutes, Mbenga certainly blocked his lion’s share of shots, averaging 1.04 per game and earning a lot of STAPLES Center love in the process.
The Lakers have to decide whether or not to pick up an option on Mbenga’s contract for next season. Here are highlights of Mbenga’s exit interview:
- On his interview with Kupchak and Jackson: “It went pretty good. Very interesting. They’re very happy with my progression. They believe that if I keep working, I can make something happen. They want more understanding and inside stuff. Defense they’re pretty much happy with.”
- Mbenga said that the he’ll join his Belgian National team on July 1st to start training camp in Dallas, Texas, before going over to the European Championships.
- On being the first Belgian national to win a championship: “It feels so good, not just in Belgium, but everyone starts to appreciate what you’ve done. As a player, you always want to seize the moment like that.”
- On the appreciation he received this season from fans: “That’s how you know the people appreciate what you give them – Because whenever I go out there, I give everything I can. Next year it might be different. Maybe I’ll be more in the rotation, not just energy.”
- The primary focus of Mbenga, on a daily basis, was to challenge Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol as much as he could. He felt strongly that his work against them in practice made them better, tougher players.
- Mbenga would like to be back in L.A. next season, but said he lets his agent deal with all the business, and merely works his butt off on the court.
- Mbenga spent some time talking about his emphasis on education in Africa, which has been a primary focus of his particularly in his native Congo. He said winning a championship doesn’t necessarily enhance that mission, but it can’t hurt.