It's been the assumption that once the season was over that the Denver Nuggets would take care of center Dikembe Mutombo, to the tune of about $10 million a year. But with the possibility the disappointing Nuggets could wind up in the NBA lottery, it appears the team is rethinking paying Mutombo like a franchise-type player.
Which could be the reason we recently witnessed an NBA-season-high 31 rebounds by Mutombo against the Charlotte Hornets on March 26. On Tuesday, Mutombo grabbed 18 rebounds against Minnesota and for the season he's third in the league in rebounding (11.8) and first in blocked shots (4.59).
But the bottom line is winning. And unless the Nuggets get to the playoffs -- with Mutombo playing a significant role -- it appears that his leverage with Denver has fallen considerably.
"It doesn't bother me whether I stay or not," Mutombo said. "I think I've worked so hard for the past five years. I'd say I've established myself very [well]. The money is waiting somewhere for me. If the Nuggets don't want to sign me, someone else will definitely sign me."
Grandpop takes it to kids
To the casual fan, it might be surprising that Robert Parish is still in the league since he hasn't been heard from much since leaving the Boston Celtics two seasons ago. Parish -- at 42 the oldest player in the league -- has been a member of the Hornets the past two seasons (he averages more than 13 minutes a game), and tomorrow he's expected to get a share of NBA history.
Tonight Parish will play in his 1,560th game, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most ever. He should gain sole possession of the record tomorrow in Cleveland.
"When I first started, I said 10 years would be a dream [career]," Parish said. "People have told me I'm an inspiration. Couch potatoes getting up and running, saying 'If Robert Parish can run up and down the court. . .' "
The longevity of Parish -- a grandfather whose 25-year-old daughter is older than three of his teammates -- can be credited to physical conditioning, which in the off-season does not include basketball. In fact, Parish doesn't even pick up a ball until a month before camp, opting to work out by running and practicing martial arts. He has never had a serious injury, which he credits to the toughness of the older players.
"[Players today] get a dislocated finger, roll their ankle, get a little cold and they don't play," Parish said. "We played through those things."
Around the league
Celtics forward Dino Radja has missed 17 games with a severely sprained left ankle, and would like nothing better than to return to action. "I've memorized all the movies on HBO and Showtime and I've watched 'SportsCenter' 15 times a day," Radja said. . . . University of Kentucky forward Walter McCarty had this to say about teammate Antoine Walker. "Just like Coach [Rick Pitino] says: When he comes to play like Magic [Johnson], this team is successful. It not, if he's playing like Dominique Wilkins, our team is not doing good." . . . Portland is 8-1 since inserting Lithuania's into the starting lineup, and is in seventh place in the Western Conference. . . . After looking more like a CBA team during the past few weeks, the Houston Rockets are about to get healthy for the homestretch with Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Mario Elie all expected back this weekend. . . . Toronto vice president Isiah Thomas and coach Brendan Malone have had a public squabble over playing time of younger players, which could cost Malone his job. Thomas wants to see the younger players to evaluate them, but was not happy when Malone played five rookies at the same time in a 40-point loss to Orlando.
Quote of the week
Golden State coach Rick Adelman on the shrinking playoff chances of his team, which has lost 14 of 20 games since Feb. 27.
"An old coach said, 'It's not over until the fat lady sings,' but I think I hear her warming up in the lobby."
Pub Date: 4/05/96