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Category: D.J. Mbenga

D.J. Mbenga released from Belgian national team

D.J. Mbenga

A common perception remains that the Lakers would've been more equipped to win the 2011 NBA title had they retained their young bench from the 2010 championship team in favor of a veteran-laden reserve unit.

The Lakers would benefit from more youth and athleticism in general teams. D.J. Mbenga's recent release from the Belgian national team, however, serves as many examples why that logic reeks of 20/20 hindsight. He may have eaten more minutes than Theo Ratliff ever did while Andrew Bynum rehabbed his surgically repaired right knee. Mbenga wouldn't have provided much, though. Consider the assessment from ESPN.com's Wendell Maxey after seeing Mbenga hoop it up in Belgium: "[F]avorite go-to moves: turnovers and missed layups."

RELATED:

D.J. Mbenga brings hope, championship ring to his native Democratic Republic of Congo

Lamenting the Lakers' lost reserves from the 2010 NBA title team points to 20/20 hindsight

Ex-Laker DJ Mbenga signs with Hornets

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Former Lakers center D.J. Mbenga was recently released from the Belgian national team. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Lamenting the Lakers' lost reserves from the 2010 NBA title team points to 20/20 hindsight

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Throughout each exit interview, every Laker dropped a morsel suggesting the missing piece to the championship puzzle.

Coach Phil Jackson lamented the team's lack of  speed. Center Andrew Bynum wished the team practiced with more intensity. And nearly everyone acknowledged in some form that the heavy basketball mileage accumulated through three consecutive NBA Finals appearances finally caught up to them. 

Interestingly enough, some of the Lakers from the 2010 championship team fit that description before parting ways. Jordan Farmar, who accepted a three-year, $12-million offer with the New Jersey Nets, provided plenty of speed as a backup point guard. Sasha Vujacic, whom the Lakers traded to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smith, earned a reputation for playing with full intensity in practice and in games. DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell provided enough minutes to keep the Lakers' front line fresh, but the Lakers' failure to re-sign them resulted in Mbenga and Powell joining the New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. 

The Lakers could have used all those missing ingredients, but fans shouldn't criticize Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak for replacing that bench with a veteran-laden reserve unit. Kupchak hardly expressed much satisfaction with the team's bench, citing Steve Blake's feeling uncomfortable on the floor, Matt Barnes' lateral meniscus tear limiting him and Theo Ratliff's arthroscopic surgery on his left knee happening only eight games into the season. But no one could've anticipated the worst-case scenario involving the newly signed players to unfold.

Sure, I found it risky for the Lakers to sign a 37-year-old Ratliff because of the uncertainty about how long he would last. Sure, I found it a little odd that little effort was made to give Smith a role to play  after lamenting the team's lack of support in helping Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's minutes while Bynum recovered from offseason surgery. And sure, the Lakers at some point are going to have to inject youth into the team to make the transition seamless when the contracts of Kobe Bryant (2013-14), Gasol (2013-14), Ron Artest (2013-14), Lamar Odom (2012-13) and Derek Fisher (2012-13) run out. But criticizing Lakers' front-office decisions during the 2010 offseason only points to 20/20 hindsight.

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Ex-Laker DJ Mbenga signs with Hornets

It took him a while to find a new team, but former Lakers center DJ Mbenga signed Wednesday with the New Orleans Hornets.

The seven-foot-tall Mbenga was signed by the Lakers in January 2008 after being cut by the Warriors; he won two championship rings as a reserve with the Lakers. Mbenga became a free agent in July.

Mbgenga played in 49 regular season games for the Lakers in in 2009-10 and averaged 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds.

--Barry Stavro

The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Mark Medina tackle some Laker questions

The Lakers are officially underway. They're finally playing basketball, providing glimpses of how the roster might shape up and giving the fans of the L.A. Times' Lakers blog something to keep them from going insane (or so I hope).

But this is one game. As much as I detailed five things to take away from the Lakers' 111-92 loss Monday to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it's one exhibition game. I don't want to say my post was a waste of time to read and write, but you have to take it for what it is. The Lakers have seven remaining pre-season games and the ring ceremony/opening night isn't until Oct. 26 against Houston.

That leaves time for The Times' Mike Bresnahan and myself to dive into a few questions after the jump.

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Preseason question of the day: Will the Lakers manage to rest their starters enough this season for the playoffs?

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Whenever I hear the tired argument that Phil Jackson has won 11 championship rings simply because he's coached some of the league's best players, I offer a litany of responses.

Jackson knows how to manage egos: he properly assesses which players need their space, which players need positive reinforcement and which players respond well to criticism. Jackson knows how to keep his team relaxed: he properly assesses when to keep an even keel, when to express anger and when to maintain his sense of humor. And most importantly, Jackson knows how to get his team looking its best once the postseason begins: He properly assesses how to pace the team through the regular-season grind, when to dial the intensity down and when to raise the level up.

Surprisingly enough, the Lakers actually entered the 2010 postseason looking far from their best. Kobe Bryant (sprained right knee), Andrew Bynum (strained left Achilles tendon) and Sasha Vujacic (sprained left ankle) entered the postseason with significant injuries. The team had limped into the playoffs with a 4-7 mark in the last 11 regular season games. And because of the bench's inconsistency, it was unclear whether the Lakers would really have the depth to absorb injuries during the postseason.

Fortunately for the Lakers, everything turned out all right. They won the 2010 championship and the Lakers proved healthy enough to slog through June. It can't be stressed enough how instrumental the weeklong rest between the West semifinals (Utah) and the West finals (Phoenix) became in the Lakers' title run. After getting his knee drained following Game 5 of the first-round series against Oklahoma City, Bryant sat out practices entirely for the rest of the postseason. So  did Bynum, who had torn cartilage in his right knee and eventually drained his knee twice during the playoffs. And everyone else on the roster at least enjoyed catching their breath and recovering from the numerous dings they absorbed throughout the season.

It's a good thing they rested then because the Lakers didn't have the same luxury during the regular season. Although the team overcame that challenge, it's something they would much rather avoid doing. That's without a doubt one of the biggest preseason questions: how much rest will the Lakers starters receive during the regular season so they're at their full strength  during the playoffs?

 

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Caught in the Web: Pau Gasol dunks over a kid

-- YouBeenBlinded has a sick picture of Lakers forward Pau Gasol dunking over a kid.

-- The Belgian media reports that former Lakers forward D.J. Mbenga joined the Denver Nuggets.

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky answers questions from readers.

-- Yardbarker.com's Tommy King lists 10 reasons why Boston will win the 2011 championship, including wanting to exact revenge on the Lakers.

-- Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum has talked to many fans in Turkey who wish Kobe Bryant had played in the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

-- Sports Law Blog's Michael McCann argues tongue-in-cheek that the Lakers could solve the nation's healthcare crisis.

-- NBA.com highlights in the video below the numerology of Ron Artest

-- ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan believes the Team USA-Russia matchup will be interesting. He also explains why Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski is fired up by comments Russia Coach David Blatt made about the 1972 Olympics.

-- Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano explains how the Lakers' offensive execution influences their defensive success.

-- Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore wonders which Western Conference team will become the Lakers' main threat.

-- Lakers.com lists the team's top 10 moments during the 2010-2011 season.

Tweet of the Day: "People keep asking 'where are you?' I am still in Turkey supporting my hubby while he plays in the World Championship. Gold medal baby!!!" -- KhloeKardashian (Khloe Kardashian, reality-TV star and Lamar Odom's wife).

Reader Comment of the Day: "We have the right personnel now it is a matter of jelling the right chemistry and camaraderie. It takes 82 games to learn from one another and another 20 games to go for 3 peat. Whatever the plans will be, the most important thing is that all players are on the same page." -- Edwin Gueco

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Caught in the Web: Reaction to the Lakers' 2010-2011 schedule

--The Times' Broderick Turner highlights the main parts of the Lakers' 2010-2011 schedule.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding provides his preseason predictions.

--Fox Sports West's Michael Eaves contends that the criticism regarding Shaquille O'Neal from Laker fans is unwarranted and that his number should be retired. Meanwhile, Lisa Leslie tells 710 ESPN's Steve Mason and John Ireland that the Lakers shouldn't retire O'Neal's number.

--NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper notes how Miami's schedule will prove more difficult than it will be for the Lakers.

--Craig Sager and Chris Webber debate in the video below on whether anyone can unseat the Lakers next season.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky shares his take on the schedule.

--Fox Sports' Charley Rosen compares the skillsets of Andrew Bynum and Andrew Bogut. Rosen also lists Lakers guard Derek Fisher on the NBA's all-underrated team.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell highlights the main games from the Lakers' upcoming schedule.

--ESPN.com's Royce Webb breaks down the Western Conference.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano reviews D.J. Mbenga's performance from last season.

Tweet of the Day:"Don't think for one min that I haven't been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone!" -- KingJames (Miami Heat forward LeBron James)

Reader Comment of the Day:"My reaction is schedule, schmedule. All I care about is that they forever abandon the "turn it on" mentality and play all out from the git go. With a stronger bench, this should be a no-brainer, with less minutes for the starters to keep 'em fresh for the real season. Speaking of which, THAT's the schedule I can get excited for" -- justanothermambafan

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Caught in the Web: Lakers finish Summer League

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--The Times' Broderick Turner highlights the contributions Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter made in Summer League.

--The Times' T.J. Simers talks to Charles Barkley, who says the Lakers should still favored to win the title next season.

--True Hoop's Kevin Arnovitz talks to an NBA scout who likes Caracter's effort, but doubts he'll play for the Lakers.

--The Las Vegas Sun's Ryan Greene believes Ebanks will make the Lakers roster.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky breaks down the Eastern Conference opponents that could challenge the the Lakers.

--The Orange County Register's Jeff Miller praises  Derek Fisher for returning to the Lakers.

--Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen compares LeBron James to Magic Johnson.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell recaps the team's Summer League loss to San Antonio.

--Silver Screen and Roll's C.A. Clark gives a player report card to D.J. Mbenga.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Phillip analyzes what Ebanks and Caracter bring to the Lakers.

Tweet of the Day: "Everybody wanna play for the heat and Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and go at these peoples!" -- KDthunderup (Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant)

Reader Comment of the Day: "The important thing for me is to see the Lakers actually develop some of these younger players so they can eventually work their way into the rotation. That's not been a strong suit of our team." -- Rick Friedman

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forward Derrick Caracter, right, blocks a shot by Sacramento's Donte Green during an NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Credit: Laura Rauch/Associated Press.

Looking ahead to rest of Lakers' free-agency movement

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There's no such thing as a Lakers off-season, but there have been very few things that have caused the organization to stress out during the dog days of summer. Sure, there was the uncertainty on whether Phil Jackson would return, but he decided a week after considering retirement to stay for one more year. There were also a few questions on whether Derek Fisher would remain or join the super-team that is the Miami Heat. Other than that, it's all been clear skies.

Lakers fans have sneered at LeBron James and "The Decision," a move that makes the Heat a legitimate contender against the Lakers. But I believe the defending champs still remain the favorite for the 2010-11 season. Lakers fans have enjoyed some summer league action, with rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter proving to be some of the top players thus far. And surely, Lakers fans have taken a break from basketball and enjoyed normal summer enjoyments such as the beach, sleeping in and doing nothing. For the sake of the blog's Web traffic numbers, I hope that's not the case. For the sake of everyone having a balanced life, I hope it's so.

The Lakers have their main corps intact, but that doesn't mean General Manager Mitch Kupchak can take vacation just yet. Among the items on the agenda

1. What to do with Shannon Brown

Brown opted out of his contract, but that was done with the hope that he could either get a long-term deal with the Lakers or see if his market value would give him a better financial deal than the $2.1 million he was going to make this season. Though The Times' Broderick Turner reported Brown has attracted interest from the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, there's been little indication that he's been heavily sought. Nonetheless, the Lakers have considered keeping Brown as long as it's financially feasible because they like his upside and attitude. Nonetheless, The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Turner report the Lakers lately are considering letting him go.

2. Will Lakers pick up more free agents?

With the Lakers signing former Clipper guard Steve Blake to a four-year, $16-million deal and agreeing with Fisher to a three-year deal worth about $10.5 million, The Times reports that the Lakers have a total payroll worth $89.09 million. The NBA salary cap for the 2010-11 season will be at $58.04 million, while a dollar-for-dollary luxury tax threshold will kick in at $70.31 million. The Lakers also have $1.77 million left on their mid-level exception. With the Lakers needing to fill four more names to their roster, it's unclear how they'll do moving forward with the money constraints.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Bryant will meet Wednesday with free agent guard Raja Bell, adding more intrigue to their relationship, given the contentiousness they had in the 2006 playoffs, which serves as an integral reason why Bryant wants him. Acquiring Bell would instantly add a defensive presence to the backcourt, a variable the Lakers sorely lacked last season. Bresnahan and Turner have also indicated Shaun Livingston is an option, though he's had incredibly bad luck with injuries. Some Laker fans have wondered if Tracy McGrady is an option, but as McGrady indicated on his Twitter account the Lakers' front office hasn't contacted him. Tweeted McGrady: "laker nation is coming hard for me... no talks with front office yet tho."

3. What about Adam Morrison , D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell?

Nothing new has been reported since, but it's been indicated that the Lakers don't expect to keep Morrison, Mbenga or Powell. Each brought great attitude and work ethic to practice, but didn't receive much playing time. Nonetheless, the Lakers haven't made any decisions.

4. How about the rookies?

Kupchak stressed after the NBA draft that he wouldn't just keep his draft picks because it'd save him money. They also had to be good. With Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter headlining summer league, Kupchak surely can count on them to help balance his checkbook. If the Lakers keep Ebanks and Caracter after training camp, The Times reports they could make $473,604 as rookie forwards.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak still has a busy off-season. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times.

D.J. Mbenga brings hope, championship ring to his native Democratic Republic of Congo

Visiting his native Democratic Republic of Congo, Lakers center D.J. Mbenga sported his 2009 championship ring for all the citizens to see.

Even if he played a marginal role in securing the Lakers' second consecutive title, Mbenga's ring symbolized hope for a country ravaged by poverty, violence and corruption.

"All we have are sports," Mbenga said. "That's why all these kids listen to you easily. But they won't listen to politicians. They don't trust the political people."

Mbenga's visit over the weekend coincided on the 50th anniversary of Congo's independence from Belgium, yet the area's still suffering with rebellions forcing a reported quarter of a million people from homes. Mbenga's limited playing time; the eye, head and ankle injuries he suffered this season; and the uncertainty of whether the Lakers will keep him once he becomes an unrestricted free agent Thursday heavily pales in comparison to the problems facing his native country.

That's why he makes sure to give back. He donated a basketball court in Kobe Bryant's name to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He visited South Africa during the last off-season for the NBA's Basketball without Borders campaign and shared the issues Congo faces. And he shared his aspirations to become president of his native country one day.

"I always dream to be president. I like politics," said Mbenga, who joked that Lakers spokesman John Black would serve as what Mbenga called his "special secretary." "I know more on politics than you know I do. I love to see kids be educated. I know it's very important. When you have a good education, you save the world. Especially for young women, they always say when you educate a women you educate the world. What's going on in my country now is a lot of bad stuff."

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

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