Dikembe Mutombo: Carmelo Anthony Should Remain With Nuggets
That's OK. Mutombo will just tell the media.
"I don't think himself, (Anthony is) really ready to give his kingdom and to move to somebody else's kingdom,'' Mutombo said.
The longtime NBA center who played for the Nuggets from 1991-96 and concluded his 18-year career in 2009, was in Denver for a ceremonial first tip before the Nuggets' Wednesday night opener against Utah. Mutombo is now an NBA global ambassador and special assistant to commissioner David Stern.
Most of the talk about the Nuggets these days is whether Anthony, who has yet to sign a $64.47 million contract extension offer and who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer, will end up being traded. There is fear from the Nuggets about losing Anthony after the season for nothing.
Well, Mutombo can speak from experience. After becoming a free agent in 1996, he bolted from Denver for Atlanta, leaving the Nuggets with nothing.
"My decision leaving the Nuggets was based on them saying they didn't have the cap room to sign me for what I was looking for,'' said Mutombo, who signed with the Hawks for what was then an astronomical $58 million over five years.
So would Mutombo have stayed had Denver come up with the money?
"Of course,'' Mutombo said. "I (later experienced) a lot of regret that I put a lot of effort to build this beautiful home (in Denver) ... I didn't live there. It was tough (to leave) when you are established somewhere for five years and you create bonds with the fans and city.''
Mutombo doesn't want Anthony, who is in his eighth Denver season, to end up with any similar regrets.
"You always think the grass is going to be greener on the other side because it seems like it's not raining here right now,'' Mutombo said. "But, by the time you walk to the other side, it might not be green. You might be going to the same dry season that you were experiencing. ... You have to be very, very very careful to make a decision.''
Mutombo spent his last five seasons with Houston, and said he had opportunities to leave. But a key factor in staying was his realization how much the Rockets fans loved him.
Nuggets fans sure have loved Anthony over the years.
"This is his team,'' Mutombo said. "He's the main guy here. ... He should look at it and consider this is his team and he should make the right decision to stay here. If he has a problem and a concern for the organization, the best thing is to go and talk to the organization. (Anthony could tell them) if they need some players that can help you win the championship.
"When you talk about the Nuggets, you talk about Carmelo Anthony as being the face of the franchise. And I don't think this organization is ready to lose someone like him.''
Mutombo said he won't say that directly to Anthony because as an NBA representative he has to be "careful of things that come from my mouth'' when he speaks to players.
Then again, Anthony said he doesn't have to speak with Mutombo
"I don't think I need to talk to him about it,'' Anthony said. "I understand where he's coming from, though.''
Mutombo's job entails extensive travel. He recently was in Haiti to assess the situation since the devastating earthquake hit last January.
A native of the Congo, Mutombo came to Denver due to being a former Nuggets player and because he has friendship with Masai Ujiri, a native of Nigeria, who two months ago was named Denver's executive vice president of basketball operations.
Ujiri has known Mutombo for 10 years, and the two have worked together for eight years on the NBA's Basketball Without Borders. Mutombo called Ujiri his "brother'' and said he's elated about the fellow African being hired by the Nuggets.
"We used to scrimmage at Georgetown,'' Ujiri said of when Mutombo would play offseason games at his alma mater. "He would come in to scrimmage with Patrick Ewing (another former Georgetown star). Scrimmaging and playing against him, that's where a relationship with him began.''
Since retiring, Mutombo, 44, has continued to work tirelessly on the hospital he has built in Kinshasa, Congo. The hospital cost $36 million, including $6 million in equipment, and Mutombo has paid for $23 million of it. But Mutombo said it costs $1.2 million annually to run, and he's looking for help there.
"I can't do it by myself,'' said Mutombo, inducted in 2007 to the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, Idaho. "We're seeking the American public and my fans who love the game to donate only $20 a year to the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation. ... If we could find at least 60,000 to 100,000 people to donate $20 a year, we can save a lot of lives.''
Donations can be made by going to www.dmf.org or by calling 1-866-289-2108.
The NBA already has contributed plenty of money to Mutombo's hospital. One thinks Stern wouldn't mind if Mutombo talks to Anthony about kicking in a few bucks.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson