Archive for the 'DJ Mbenga' Category

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Powell, Mbenga Back for 2009-10

ts_090701powellmbengaPower forward Josh Powell and center D.J. Mbenga will remain on the Lakers’ roster for the 2009-10 season after L.A. opted not to terminate their respective non-guaranteed contracts by the July 1 deadline, according to Lakers spokesman John Black.

Powell and Mbenga each had a year left on their contracts, and since neither was acted upon, the 6-10 and 7-0 post players are guaranteed through the coming season.

Powell averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 11.7 regular season minutes and 2.1 points with 1.2 boards in 5.2 postseason minutes during L.A.’s championship run. He showed his value when afforded ample playing time, highlighted by a 17-point, 9-rebound performance on March 11 at Houston when the Lakers were without Andrew Bynum (injury) and Lamar Odom (suspension).

Mbenga won the rights to L.A.’s third center position as the Lakers sent Chris Mihm to Memphis for a draft pick, and made the most of his 7.9 minutes per game in the regular season by blocking 1.04 shots in that time. He even inspired his own cheering section of the upper deck with fans often sporting “Banging with Mbenga” t-shirts.

Mbenga will join the Belgian National Team this summer in preparation for EuroBasket 2009, while Powell, star of J-Peezy’s Playlist, is currently working out in his hometown of Atlanta.

D.J. Mbenga: Exit Interview

blog_090619djmbengaBackup 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.

Lakers Need Powell, Mbenga to Play Big

Josh Powell, DJ MbengaBefore the season started, L.A. boasted the league’s best depth up front, courtesy of starters Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol with Lamar Odom eagerly waiting to contribute off the bench.

Wednesday night in Houston, however, the Lakers will have but one of that threesome, Gasol, since Bynum remains out after tearing his MCL in January and Odom’s serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench in Portland on Monday.

Expected to start in Odom’s place is power forward Josh Powell – though Phil Jackson’s yet to officially say who’ll get the nod – while center D.J. Mbenga could see extended minutes as the primary big off the bench.

“Every time you’re on the court is an opportunity to showcase what you can do, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Powell. “But most important is to just come in and get a win. That’s all I’m thinking about.”

Powell said he’s comfortable playing with the starters, and plans to compete the same way he always does. In fact, that’s exactly what Mbenga said.

“I’m just going to play my game,” he explained before meeting his close friend and countryman from Congo, Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, for lunch. “I want to be physical with Yao Ming, block shots and provide energy.”

In his last three games, Mbenga has swatted nine shots, scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds in roughly 17 minutes per game. Powell, who’s gotten more playing time throughout the season particularly since Bynum went down, has showcased an obvious toughness, soft jumper and rebounding skills on both ends of the floor. He scored 14 points with six rebounds in 19 minutes against the Timberwolves on Friday night, and grabbed a season-high eight boards the previous game against Memphis. While neither Mbenga nor Powell have Odom’s passing or ball-handling abilities, their more rugged collective style could be useful against a tough Rockets squad.

Mbenga Pushing For Education in Congo

DJ MbengaYou haven’t heard much from D.J. Mbenga this season, as he’s buried behind Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom on L.A.’s bench.

But take a few moments to speak with him, and you immediately realize that he has a great deal to say, and not just about basketball.

Mbenga, who was born in Congo but forced to grow up in Belgium due to political circumstances in his home country, has an insatiable desire for learning, and spends much of his free time keeping up with the latest world news, particularly the largely dire situation in Congo. Indeed, when I stroll by Mbenga’s locker before most games, it’s not that night’s opponent but the latest news around which our conversations center, even if just for a minute.

Accordingly, prior to Tuesday night’s game in Houston, we began to talk about Congo since Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo is actually from the same town as D.J., and has served as Mbenga’s big brother since Mbenga came into the league. Mutombo’s done amazing things for his people in Africa, including putting a widely-reported $16 million of his own money to build a hospital.

And while Mbenga is extremely proud of Mutombo and will always look up to him, his focus is education.

“We’re trying to educate these people and especially these young kids,” Mbenga explained. “Even one dollar is a lot for someone over there, so that’s why we do everything we can … Education is very important. When you educate, you save the world.”

As such, Mbenga has actually set up a foundation – The Mbenga Foundation – specifically designed to help children in Africa, which you can link to below:

MBENGA FOUNDATION: Caring and Sharing

Here’s the audio from our conversation in Houston, in which Mbenga details the need for education in Congo and talks specifically about what he’s doing to extend a helping hand to his country.

Injury Update

Lakers spokesman John Black offered an injury update following Friday’s practice:

- An MRI from a few days ago revealed that Sasha Vujacic does have a sprained ankle, as was thought to be the case.
- Jordan Farmar missed practice with a sore right foot.
- D.J. Mbenga practiced for the first half of the session but sat out the second with a sore right heel.

Mbenga On Board

With training camp around the corner the Lakers took another step toward filling out their roster as they re-signed Center DJ Mbenga.

Mbenga bounced around last season, first going to training camp with the Dallas Mavericks and then playing the first part of the season with the Golden State Warriors.

After signing multiple ten-day contracts with the Lakers, Mbenga was brought aboard in January for the remainder of the season, appearing in 26 regular season games and seven postseason games.

The Lakers roster now stands at 19.

Turiaf Out for Game 2

Before tonight’s game against the Nuggets, Coach Jackson said that Ronny Turiaf will not play tonight as he is still not feeling well.

Turiaf will not be present at STAPLES Center tonight with Jackson revealing, “He’s going to be back home, recovering, hopefully getting ready for Friday.”

In his absence, Jackson said that D.J. Mbenga–recently diagnosed with bruised ribs–will likely see playing time tonight, with Chris Mihm another option at center.

Mbenga and Turiaf on the Mend

After D.J. Mbenga was diagnosed with bruised ribs yesterday after taking a hard fall during practice, Coach Jackson said he was forced to limit his minutes during today’s workout session, but not before he got a good run in.

With Ronny Turiaf still feeling under the weather and noticeably lacking his usual energy, Jackson said he only allowed the forward to break a small sweat before taking him off the floor.

“We hope that he’ll improve,” said Jackson. “He improved from probably yesterday until today.”

Mbenga Hits the Deck Hard

After practice broke on Monday a group of eight Lakers held back to play a 4-on-4 game while the other players attended to the assembled media.

Center DJ Mbenga got caught up with some of the other participants and ended up on the floor with a look of agony on his face as teammates and team medical personnel gathered around.

From how DJ was holding his side it looks like something in the rib area, but nothing official has been released.

UPDATE: DJ had a CT scan and was diagnosed with bruised ribs. He is officially being listed as Day-to-Day.

Lakers vs. Wizards Post-Game

The Lakers rebounded from consecutive losses to lowly Charlotte and Memphis by defeating the Wizards 126-120 in an overtime thriller. After trailing 120-117, Derek Fisher nailed a clutch two from just inside the arc to bring the Lakers to within one of Washington. After two free throws by Kobe reclaimed the lead 121-120, the purple and gold never looked back.

“I thought that a lot of players contributed tonight to the victory,” said Jackson. “Radmanovic (18 points) and Sasha (20 points) in the first half with the three point shooting obviously was pretty traumatic. D.J. (6 points, 3 rebounds) gave us a good game off the bench at center. Luke played a terrific game tonight.”

Despite the win, the Lakers continued their disturbing trend of allowing big quarters to inferior teams, giving up 39 in the third to Washington.

“They played with fury there in the third quarter,” said Jackson. “Again, we gave up over 35 points which is a lot…39 in that third quarter. Stevenson with five threes was a pretty remarkable performance.” Jackson also praised the 27 point performance of Wizards guard Nick Young.

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