Dikembe Mutombo offers advice to Melo
Careful what you wish for.
"You think the grass is going to be greener on the other side, because you think it's not raining here right now," said Mutombo, who was in Denver on Wednesday to support friend and newly hired Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri as the team opened the season against the Utah Jazz. "But by the time you walk to the other side, it might not be green. You might be going to the same dry season you experienced in the other part."
Since Mutombo serves as the global ambassador for the league, though, he didn't feel it was right to personally chat with Anthony about his situation, delivering his message instead through the media.
Anthony has been the subject of trade speculation ever since he spurned a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets in June. The Nuggets have until the February trade deadline to deal Anthony or risk losing him through free agency next summer, when he would be the headliner of the 2011 class.
Mutombo can relate on some level. He played his first five seasons in Denver, becoming an instant crowd favorite, only to leave for Atlanta in 1996.
His decision to split also was financial -- a salary-cap issue for the Nuggets. But Mutombo felt that wasn't properly explained to the fans, leading to boos upon his return.
"Even though the fans loved me a lot, there also was a lot of people that were disappointed," Mutombo said. "The entire blame was on me. I ended up taking a lot of blame. That's why it was hard for me."
Would he have stayed if the Nuggets had cap room?
"Of course," he said. "Sometimes you have to search your soul, see if I'm happy. If you're happy, then stay, instead of going somewhere because of the money."
Taking a flight into Denver on Tuesday, the 7-foot-2 Mutombo was instantly recognized by the passengers on the plane.
"Everybody on the plane was like, 'Thank you so much for everything you did for us while you were in Denver," Mutombo said. "That made me feel so good about it. This is what you want to hear. You don't want to hear people say, 'Man, what are you doing in our city? You left us. Get out of here."
He's hoping that's not what they're uttering one day about Anthony.
"This is his team. He's the main guy here," Mutombo said. "If I was him, if I had a chance to talk to him, he should look at it and consider this is his team. He should make the right decision to stay here."
Denver nearly traded Anthony to the New Jersey Nets a month ago, only to have the deal fell apart. The Knicks reportedly are another team interested in acquiring the All-Star forward.
But Anthony began the season in a Nuggets uniform.
"When you talk about the Nuggets, you talk about Carmelo Anthony as being the face of the franchise," Mutombo said. "I don't think that the organization is ready to lose someone like him.
"I don't think he is really ready to give up his kingdom and move to somebody else's kingdom."
Mutombo has enjoyed his role with the league, visiting places such as China, India and Africa to try to grow the game. He recently spent time in Haiti to witness the rebuilding efforts in the earthquake-ravaged nation.
"It keeps me busy," said Mutombo, who played 18 seasons in the NBA and ranks second all-time in blocks (3,230).
He was invited to attend the opener by Ujiri when the GM and team president Josh Kroenke were in New York visiting with commissioner David Stern.
Mutombo and Ujiri have been friends for a decade as they've worked together on different projects, including the NBA's Basketball without Borders program.
Both are from Africa and both have a vested interest in giving back to that continent.
"We've been working together on a bunch of projects in Africa to develop the youth, to see more Dikembe Mutombos in the NBA," Mutombo said. "We have passed the torch to so many youth in the continent to [help] the success. Maybe we can inspire them -- those kids can go back and make a difference."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press