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DJ Mbenga: Exit Interview

As BK mentioned while posting Shannon Brown's exit interview, it's natural to feel especially happy when a ring graces the finger of a player enduring a bumpy NBA path.  DJ Mbenga fits this particular bill.  A career 12th man often surviving on non-guaranteed short term deals, every season bears a degree of mystery for DJ.  A midseason free agent pick up in 2008, DJ impressed enough to remain in the fold, and now waits to find out if the team will pick up next season's option.  I'm guessing they will, and if the fans get a vote, Tacos definitely ain't going no place. 

Mbenga described what appeared to be a pleasant sitdown with the brass. "They're really happy the way I progressed," said DJ. "They believe and hope if I keep working, I can make more happen."  As Mbenga acknowledged, sweat is a necessary part of the equation, which is why he'll play for the Belgian National team this summer in an effort to keep improving.  It's also indicative of how winning a title has inspired Mbenga to crank his skills up a notch.

"Last year, I didn't do it. I wanted to take a little vacation. I was hurt that we lost the Finals, so I didn't want to do nothing. But this year, I really want to do it. I really want to improve myself and my game. Inside. Outside.  Because I'm a big man, I don't want to just be an inside guy. I want to be an outside guy, too."

Not sure what type of range DJ is thinking, but should a surprise player nab the three point shooting crown at next season's All-Star Game, remember, you read it here first. 

Mbenga became a fan favorite as the season progressed, inspiring an entire section to don "Banging with Mbenga" T-shirts in his honor.  A guest was even wearing one at the team party.  DJ couldn't believe it, but as the Laker fan explained, "You just don't know how we love to see you play.  To do the things you do on the court.  You just don't know."

Mbenga's not the first "energy man" (as he labeled himself) to win over a crowd, nor will he be last. Nor is he simply satisfied being the sports equivalent of cult movie. DJ wants blockbuster status (or at least a bigger role in the rotation, whichever comes first), in large part because of a desire to reward fans for their support.   "That's the kind of stuff that (makes) me feel like I have to work more. I have to do more. I feel like I can give more."

It's no secret that Mbenga's path to the NBA wasn't covered in rose petals, and not simply because remaining in the league is a quest.  While living in the Congo, Mbenga was quite literally forced to fight for his life. I asked DJ to share his emotions upon reaching this point, in light of what he's experienced. Understandably, it's a place he'd prefer not revisit.

"What I'm trying to do right now is forget everything. I've turned everything that's negative to positive. I take all my energy- I should be worried, crying, or doing whatever- and I turn it to the positive way. To work hard to make something happen. Because it's not easy. That's why, for me to have this ring, it's very important."

Asked by another writer if he viewed this championship as "consolation" for the "tough paths of your life," Mbenga said that was exactly the word he was seeking.  Powerful stuff, for sure.  It also helps explain why DJ created the Mbenga Foundation, which he hopes can provide desperately needed improvements to his homeland's educational system. "To me, education is very important. People, they can bring in food, they bring anything, but if the education is not there..."

Asked whether his game improved practicing all season against the likes of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, DJ wasted no time "reversing the question," since he did just as much to bring out his higher profile mates' best. 

"I know which way I can push them the way and they know which way they can push me. They make me better the way I make them so much better. The more I practice with them, the more they improve in their game. That's the credit I receive. I look at it like that.'

Many people forget that DJ (and Josh Powell) were members of the Dallas Mavericks team that blew a 2-0 Finals lead against the Miami Heat.  Thus, he made sure to remind teammates that the Finals ain't over until they're officially in the books, no matter how pretty you happen to be sitting.

Previous Exit Interviews:

AK

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

The comments to this entry are closed.

as well as Brown, I also would really dig Mbenga remaining a Laker for a long time---he seems to be improving and has the desire to continue to improve...

Mbenga could ineed become a very valuable piece of the Dynasty as well...

GO LAKERS !!!

Someone else pointed this out, and I'll just repeat it.

The one man in the Laker franchise who has earned his paycheck is Kobe Bryant.

No other way about it. For this reason, I say let Kobe get the max, and make DR. BUSS use HIS money to pay Ariza and Odom.

If it were a matter where we didn't have the players already to contend for a ring, and it would be impossible to upgrade the talent level of this team because of salary cap restrictions (ie, Kobe making most of the available money) then I would say Kobe needs to take less so we can get the pieces to compete.

But, since the pieces are already here and no real trades are necessary so we don't have to break our backs maneuvering around/over/under/through the salary cap, I say Buss has to pay.

Guys, Kobe can get the max, we can actually still add a player through the draft, we can still use the mid level, and I believe, since Odom and Ariza are our players, technically, we can pay them BOTH THE MAX without breaking salary cap rules.

Am I wrong? We wont do this, but the point is, the onus to pay is on Buss, not Kobe.

Again, someone else wrote this, I'm just agreeing.

Wes

I'm hooked on these exit interviews. Nice clear video presentation, quick excerpts that aren't long enough for the viewer to lose interest, and good questions from the media.

Also, this is a really good group of guys that really do like each other. So much for Kobe being a terrible teammate and leader. Oh well, I'm sorry to see that argument go bye bye. Don't let the door hit you where the good lord splits you…where your mamma sits you…where your daddy hits you… where I’d like to kick you…etc.

But, I must say, this may be the single worst interview team in championship history. There just isn't a single go-to interviewee. No one is funny, no one has a magnetic personality, no one is eloquent, and no one has good one-liners, but, still, I love the guys.

Ariza? What a great, quiet, let the game do the talking guy. Lamar, ditto. Pau, ditto. Fish, ditto.

Farmar, shut up.

Wes

Jose,

If the Busses don't pay the money to resign Lamar and Trevor and we lose them, then I'll lose all respect for the Busses because they're arrogant and greedy, and not making what they believe is the best business decisions for themselves. Sounds ridiculous huh?

So Kobe will prove all of your suspicions if he doesn't take a pay cut huh? .I guess he'd better put a call into his agent right now and take that cut, because the last thing he should want in this world is to have your suspicions confirmed if he doesn't. LOL!

I don't know how many of you caught those games late in the season when Congo was taking those 10-15 foot jumpshots. His touch isn't that bad for a seven footer. I mean, I've definitely seen worst. I like the way he wants to get better. Hey DJ, the sky is the limit!!!!!!!!!!!

hog

I really like DJ Mbenga, and its pretty clear he's popular with his team too.. (see: Kimmel)..

Any chance we pick up Patty Mills in the draft??

Anna,

That comment shouldn't have gone through. You were right to be upset, and it's since been deleted.

Jose,

Don't leave a comment like that again. This is your one warning.

AK

Anna, there is a good chance that Patty Mills will still be there for us at #29 in the first round or even #37 in the second round. However, it's pretty likely that the Lakers will select someone from Europe in the 1st round so they don't take a salary cap/luxury tax hit. Their top two priorities are re-signing Lamar and Trevor, with re-signing Shannon a third priority. They will also probably pick up the options of Powell and Mbenga. I don't know about Sun.

Anyway, I don't know how amenable Mills would be to sign with a European club for one season and then come to the Lakers and replace Fish the next season. One thing, he has trouble finishing at the rim. I don't know how much of his performance could be attributed to his wrist injury. Also, while he's lightning fast, Phil isn't very fond of short point guards, and Mills measured at 6-0 1/2 in shoes and he has a very short 6-2 wingspan. Fish and Farmar are pushing the envelope, and they're both in the 6-1 to 6-2 height range.

If Rodrigue Beaubois is still there at #29, I think the Lakers will select him. He's also lightning fast, but he's 6-2 and he has a freaky 6-10 wingspan and one of the highest vertical leaps in the draft. He's 21 and a little raw, but he does play PG and can be stashed in Europe for another season.

For the #37 pick, the Lakers might take Sergiy Gladyr if he's still available. He's only 19, but is one of the best jump shooters in the draft, he has good hops, and he's 6-5. He could be stashed in one of the Euro leagues for two more season, and come over and play for us the season after Sasha's contract expires.

The other Euro guy the Lakers are looking at is 6-9 Jonas Jerekbo. He's sort of an Andrei Kirilenko clone...great at shotblocking and steals.

I would certainly like to see DJ Mbenga back in the purple and gold.

Any word on how the draft situation is forming?

What do we play for? RINGS!!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

We especially need Mbenga on the Mbench if Andy B. takes another fall.

GOOOoooOOOO LAKERS !!!

I think Mbenga and Powell are back for sure, where else can we get a BU center and PF at those prices with that kind of size and skill level. Mitch knows this, On Odom, Ariza and Brown, it all comes down to IF one of the teams with cap room goes after any of the three of them, if not, all we have to match is the mid level exception to get them back.


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