Mutombo thinks he deserves HOF nod

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Mutombo thinks he deserves HOF nod

HOUSTON -- Dikembe Mutombo thinks he deserves induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 7-foot-2 Mutombo will be eligible beginning in 2015 after his retirement following the 2008-09 season. He ranks second on the NBA's career blocked shots list (3,256), behind only Hakeem Olajuwon (3,830) and he says surpassing every player but Olajuwon on that list should alone merit inclusion into the Hall. Mutombo was also a four-time defensive player of the year, an eight-time All-Star and twice the league's top rebounder (2000-01).

"If you can see my name just below one of the great basketball players to ever play for this league," he said Wednesday, "for me to come this close to breaking his record, I don't see why I cannot be on the same bus with him. That's how I look at it."

On Wednesday, Mutombo joined a group of former NBA and current WNBA players visiting the Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, part of the league's NBA Cares initiative. The event kicked off the NBA's All-Star festivities in Houston this weekend.

Mutombo played for the Rockets from 2004-09, and he swung by the Toyota Center this week, catching an admiring glimpse of the statue out front honoring Olajuwon. Mutombo also played for Denver (1991-96), Atlanta (1996-2001), Philadelphia (2000-02), New Jersey (2002) and New York (2003-04).

But he feels his closest bond to the Rockets and owner Leslie Alexander, who offered financial as well as organizational support for Mutombo's personal crusade to build a hospital in his native Congo. Mutombo started his foundation in 1997 with a personal $19 million donation to benefit the people of his homeland. In 2007, he opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center there, named after his mother.

"At the end of my journey, I see myself as a Rocket," he said. "That's where I ended my career, and also the organization that did so much for me. They knew I had a vision and I went to work for the owner, who's a man who believes in philanthropy and believed in me as a player."

Mutombo says his hospital has become one of the best in Africa, with 185 beds and state-of-the-art equipment. He says it's treated patients from nine different countries on the continent and he's close to securing an agreement under which U.S. diplomats could receive medical care there.

"We're very pleased with this dream," he said. "Sometimes, I sit down and I cannot believe that it is a reality -- that a young man like me was able to build a hospital in the continent that is going through so much, and a country that is going through a civil war. Somehow, the hospital survives."

Mutombo was recognized in former President George W. Bush's 2007 State of the Union address and he's also the only two-time winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given for "outstanding service and dedication to the community."

While he thinks he has the credentials to earn Hall of Fame induction as a player, Mutombo acknowledges that he'd like to gain entry to offer inspiration to underprivileged children in Africa.

"It would mean a lot for the many generations coming from Africa," he said. "More African children would say that, one of us did it, we can do it, we cannot hold ourselves back because of the poverty of the place where we grew up, the trouble that's surrounding our community. When the opportunity is presented to us, we have to seize it. That happened to me."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.