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Mbenga's NBA Career Filled With Team Success
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com


December 15, 2010

Call it the D.J. Mbenga Effect. Wherever the 7-foot, 255-pound center has played since beginning his NBA career in 2004, team success has quickly followed. Over his six previous professional campaigns, the teams hes finished each season with have never won fewer than 57 games (by comparison, the Hornets best-ever single-season record is 56-26). As a member of the Dallas Mavericks and later with the Los Angeles Lakers, Mbenga has been to the NBA Finals four of the past five years, including winning back-to-back championships as a Lakers reserve in 2009 and 2010.

It doesnt stop there. The 29-year-olds Forrest Gump-like existence in the league includes a January 2010 trip to visit Barack Obama at the White House with the title winning-Lakers, along with playing for a Mavericks team in 2006-07 that posted a franchise-record 67 victories.

Everywhere Ive been (in the NBA) has been a blessing, Mbenga said. Its funny, because all of my life, no matter what the sport was, whether it was in judo, (soccer) or basketball, every year I was winning. Ive tried to bring something to every team Ive played for and make the team better.

Early in the 2010-11 season, its been more of the same. Signed as a free agent on Oct. 13, Mbenga has now participated in the best start in Hornets history. Monty Williams relies on the Democratic Republic of Congo native to serve as the backline of a greatly-improved New Orleans defense.

During an Oct. 30 victory at San Antonio, Mbenga blocked three shots in only 15 minutes, including pinning a Tim Duncan layup attempt. The Hornets registered a 99-90 victory, their first triumph on the Spurs home floor since 2008.

D.J. is giving us a defensive presence, Williams said. Hes blocking shots. Hes distracting shots.

Mbenga whose given first name is Didier earned the nickname D.J. in unusual fashion. When Mbenga was introduced as a free-agent signing to the Dallas media in 2004, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban struggled to correctly pronounce Didier. Cuban decided to improvise on the spot and began calling him D.J.

Early in 2010-11, Williams and some other Hornets coaches and players have returned to calling him by his real first name, something the personable Mbenga has enjoyed.

I kind of like it, he said before a recent home game, smiling. Coming here has been great. We have so many new people that were still learning, but were building something here.



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