Archive for the 'DJ Mbenga' Category

2010 Exit Interviews: DJ Mbenga

mbengaDJ Mbenga appeared in 49 regular season games, starting two, and three playoff games, offering relief duty particularly during the points of 2009-10 in which Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol missed time with respective injuries.

In 355 total regular season minutes (7.2 per game), Mbenga blocked 29 shots (.59 per game), adding 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

Mbenga, an unrestricted free agent, addressed media members on Tuesday morning; below are some of the finer points:

- (On his meeting with Phil Jackson and Mitch Kupchak): “It was great. Really interesting. They definitely want me back, so we’ll see where it goes.”
- Mbenga said that like any other player, of course he’d like to play more than he did this past season.
- (On beating Boston): “It was not easy. It was tough. That’s why it makes this ring maybe more special. Last year we knew pretty much what we wanted to do, but this year we had to ask ourselves what we’re doing. Every series, we had a meeting, had to get together in the locker room and talk. That’s how D-Fish did a great job. ‘Man, what are we doing? We’ve been here before?’”
- (On heading back to his native Democratic Republic of Congo this summer): “It’s going to be great. Actually I’m going this weekend because it’s the anniversary of independence from Belgium. I’m trying to make him come this summer, but it’s going to be hard.
- (On the Kobe Bryant Court he’s building in the Congo): “(The court) is doing great. I’m hoping it will be done by next summer. Hopefully he can come
- (On politics): “When I’m President, you’re going to work for me. That’s my dream. I always dreamed to be President. (Lakers Spokesman/PR Chief) John (Black’s) going to be my special secretary. Education (would be my platform). I want the citizens to be educated, that’s most important. When you have a good education, you can save the world.”
- Mbenga says the Lakers need not change to (three-peat: “This team has everything we want. We have spirit, we are strong.”
- (On Bynum playing through pain and growing mentally): “It was a tough year for Andrew. I can tell you it was tough … he really has a strong mind. To ply with an injury like that, because the knee sometimes after the game, I couldn’t believe it. Practice was good for us. I make him better, he makes me better. If you don’t have a ring after you struggle all season, you would feel bad. When you accomplish something like get a ring, you can’t complain.”

The Lakers on Jimmy Kimmel Live

For the second season in a row the Lakers made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live as the reigning NBA Champions. Click below to see all five parts.

4/25 Injury Update: Mbenga’s Eye

The Lakers announced on Sunday that backup center DJ Mbenga suffered two new retinal holes in his left eye, which is actually nothing unique considering the initial traumatic eye injury he suffered on April 17 in practice.

According to team spokesman John Black, shifting can occur in the eye and open up other holes in the retina, which was the case in this instance.

Mbenga had surgery on Sunday to repair the holes, and will be reevaluated in 72 hours. The operation was performed by Dr. Ron Gallimore, the same doctor who operated on Mbenga on the 17th.

Mbenga will not play in Tuesday’s Game 5 against Oklahoma City.

4/19 Injury Update: Mbenga’s Eye is OK

100419mbengaLakers backup center DJ Mbenga had some bad luck during both Friday’s and Saturday’s practices leading into L.A.’s first playoff game, first suffering a blow to the head and then getting poked in the eye, accidents that twice sent him to the doctor’s office.

Fortunately for Mbenga and the Lakers, the first visit showed that he hadn’t suffered a concussion, and the second resulted in successful emergency laser surgery to repair a retinal hole that Mbenga said immediately improved his vision after just 5-to-10 minutes.

“Now it’s cool, my vision is better and I have to (wear protective goggles) for the rest of the season,” said the fifth-year big man.

It’s still possible that Mbenga would be available for Tuesday night’s Game 2 against the Thunder, but first he’ll get re-evaluated on Tuesday morning.

“Tomorrow they’ll tell me if I can play or not,” he said.

While he certainly would like to play, Mbenga’s content at least for the day that he’s again able to see after a scary moment.

“I felt something, went down on the floor and tried to stand up myself to walk to the locker room,” he explained. “But it was kind of bad because I really didn’t have my balance so I had to go right away to the hospital.”

You can follow Mike on Twitter for live updates from practices, games and more.

DJ Mbenga Injures Eye

DJ Mbenga was hit in the eye during Saturday’s practice, and suffered a retinal hole injury.

L.A.’s backup center had emergency laser surgery on his left eye, performed by Dr. Ron Gallimore, later in the evening.

Mbenga will be out a minimum of 72 hours.

He is out for Sunday’s game and will be re-evaluated on Tuesday afternoon.

Kobe Speaks of DJ’s Special Gift

80391796MW074_Los_Angeles_LIn our “Chat with Congo Cash” earlier this week, DJ Mbenga addressed all kinds of topics from his nickname to fashion to Africa to nuggets about his Lakers teammates.

Among his most interesting comments came as he detailed his donation of a basketball court in Kobe Bryant’s name to his native Democratic Republic of Congo:

I always say, when we talk about Michael Jordan we always set him apart. But people gotta realize now, it’s not just Michael Jordan. It’s Kobe too. I told him, “I’m going to give you the best gift you’ve ever had … I’m building a basketball court in Congo with your name on it. People they love you there. You helped me to get a ring, I’m going to give you something back. I’m going to give you a basketball court with your name – that’s something nobody else can have. Even Michael Jordan never had that. I told him, “You’re going to give people hope. There are kids that are stealing, killing, (doing drugs) … instead I want them to play basketball at the Kobe … Bryant … Court.” It’s going to be in Kinshasa*. They are going to start working on it in a couple of weeks. Everything’s already been set up through my foundation.

After L.A. defeated Golden State on Monday night, we had a chance to ask Kobe about the honor:

It makes me feel great. He told me he was going to have a surprise for me, and something he and I talk about often is visiting Congo and speaking to some of the kids. DJ and I have a really close relationship. This is a tremendous honor, something that I didn’t expect. (DJ does) a ton for (the people) over there. It’s something that people don’t hear about, but he doesn’t do it for the attention, he does it because it’s something that’s close to his heart. I absolutely have to (go visit).

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

D.J. Mbenga Injury Update

DJ MbengaLast week, Phil Jackson explained that D.J. Mbenga had not been able to participate fully in practice due to an injury, which Lakers spokesman John Black detailed on Monday:

Due to a malalignment of his hips/ hip flexors, the imbalance is causing him pain in his abdominal, groin and hip flexor areas. He continues to work with our training staff to rehabilitate and is expected to make a full recovery at some point in the near future.

***10/6 UPDATE – Phil Jackson said that Mbenga practiced for the first time in five days on Tuesday, and should be fully operational soon.

Mbenga Concludes Week in Africa

D.J. Mbenga concluded his week in South Africa with the NBA’s Basketball without Border’s Africa program, as summarized by league staff:

It was all basketball on the final day of BWB Africa 2009, with a women’s clinic starting things off in the morning led by former WNBA players Nkeysha Sales and Teresa Edwards. Sixty girls Basketball South Africa ran through passing, shooting and dribbling drills. After the on-court action, Hoops 4 Hope ran a life skills session for the girls teaching the importance of teamwork and leadership.

The BWB campers played their last games with their teams and the Houston Rockets, coached by Dikembe Mutombo, Teresa Edwards and BJ Johnson, finished in first place in the camp tournament.

The campers waited eagerly for the All-Star announcement and Nigeria and Senegal had the most representation with six and five respectively. BJ Johnson coached Team Black to a 44-31 victory over Team White. After the game, individual camp award winners were announced as follows, including Nike Camp MVP Gorgui Sky Dieng of Senegal.

The campers then had a final chance to say their goodbyes and trade email addresses with their new found friends at the end-of-camp barbeque.

Mbenga in Africa for Basketball Without Borders

Dikembe MutumboAmong my favorite pregame routines during media access throughout the 2008-09 regular season was stopping by the locker of the always interesting D.J. Mbenga.

Of course, many of the conversations were about basketball. But just as often, the topic would drift to international news, particularly anything involving Mbenga’s native land, Africa. His eyes were just as likely to sparkle when talking about his favorite cause – education in Africa – as they were when an opposing player tried to lay the ball up near his sacred land (the paint).

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mbenga was forced to move to Belgium, but his love for Africa makes it no coincidence that he has been in Johannasburg, South Africa, with the NBA’s Basketball without Borders (BwB) Africa since Wednesday.

The NBA described the project:

The focus of the NBA Cares social responsibility efforts for Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa is education, grassroots basketball development and health related issues with a focus on HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. The BWB Africa camp also features a product donation for local non-government organizations (NGO’s) that includes school supplies, sports equipment, clothing, toiletries, hygiene products and other necessities. Social responsibility efforts are split into two categories. The first is Life Skills seminars, which are hour long sessions held daily for the campers. Life Skills seminars will run in the following schedule: Day 1 – Orientation, Day 2 and Day 3 – HIV/AIDS education and living a healthy lifestyle presented by Hoops4Hope. The second category is community outreach events that take place each afternoon around the Johannesburg community.

MbengaThe event runs from Sept. 2nd to 6th, and aside from a bevy of basketball activities featuring the Top 60 African players from 15+ countries (ages 19 and under), includes the following visits by the NBA: Sustainable Food Garden Project at Cotlands Home Based Care Facility- Soweto; Habitat for Humanity Build Day; Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY) Trust Visit; Hoops4Hope Girls Basketball Clinic; and Life Skills Seminars including two sessions on “HIV/AIDS Education and Living a Healthy Lifestyle.”

Mbenga’s fellow participants include close friend and fellow native of Congo Dikembe Mutombo (pictured above), Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and WNBA/Team USA legend Teresa Edwards.

We’ll catch up with Mbenga for all the details of the trip upon his return.

European Round Up

***UPDATE 2: The Spanish National Team expects Pau Gasol (finger) to play.
***UPDATE: Sasha Vujacic will not play in the tournament.

On September 7 in Poland, up to three L.A. Lakers could be representing their National Teams in EuroBasket 2009, an international tournament intended to designate Europe’s best team.

Pau Gasol of Spain, Sasha Vujacic of Slovenia and D.J. Mbenga of Belgium, are all expected to play, though Gasol is in the process of recovering from a torn volar plate on the index finger of his left hand. Gasol will be re-evaluated in just over two weeks when Lakers Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti travels to Barcelona.

Gasol and Vujacic’s teams have already qualified for the tournament, while Mbenga’s battling for Belgium to join his Lakers teammates in Poland.

Mbenga (who grew up in Congo, Africa, before moving to Belgium) has averaged 20.3 minutes on the way to 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for his country. Belgium needs to win its final game in Group A of the Additional Qualifying Round to finish 3-1 and thus advance to play Group B winner France for the right to play at EuroBasket in Poland. Just as the folks in the “Banging with Mbenga” fan club would have expected, D.J. swatted five shots to open the tournament, then contributed seven points and four boards in a 102-79 victory over previously unbeaten Bosnia and Herzegovina to put the Belgians in place to beat Portugal and move on to join Group B, featuring Russia, Germany and Latvia.

Gasol and Vujacic’s countries are both in Group C, widely considered the tournament’s toughest group, which also features former Laker Vladimir Radmanovic’s Serbia as well as Great Britain.

According to Vujacic’s website, he’s been dealing with a sore knee, but began practicing again on Monday, August 14.

Slovenian Basketball Federation national team director Matej Avanzo confirmed that Sasha will be practicing with the team again on Monday and travel with them to Spain for their next match after the games against Croatia.

Stay tuned for further coverage of Gasol, Vujacic and Mbenga as EuroBasket 2009 approaches.