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Friday, February 23, 2001
Mutombo traded to Sixers in six-player deal

Theo Ratliff

Dikembe Mutombo

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers hope they traded for an NBA championship Thursday when they acquired Dikembe Mutombo from Atlanta in a six-player deal that sent Theo Ratliff and Toni Kukoc to Atlanta.

Allen Iverson certainly thinks that's what will happen.

"I'd be lying to you all if I didn't say this guy could help us win a championship," Iverson said. "He's a rebounder, he's an intimidator, he can change the game all by himself, offensively and defensively. It's going to be tough for guys to double-team him and myself."

"I'm going to Philadelphia to play with a great player, Allen Iverson, a scoring machine who plays with tremendous energy," Mutombo said in a statement read by Philadelphia coach Larry Brown. "The opportunity to win a championship is certainly there."

Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo is looking forward to playing with Allen Iverson.
With his team already owning the NBA's best record, Brown said the trade would fill the short-term hole left by an injured Ratliff, who had wrist surgery Wednesday and could be out 2-4 weeks -- or longer.

"The defining moment was when we realized we would be without Theo for 16 to 20 games, or who knows when," Brown said. "While Theo is getting healed, we've got Mutombo out there."

Philadelphia also gets forward Roshown McLeod, while center Nazr Mohammed and rookie guard Pepe Sanchez move to Atlanta.

The Sixers believe the 7-foot-2 Mutombo, 34, will match up well against the Western Conference's big, elite centers -- particularly the Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neill, San Antonio's David Robinson, Portland's Arvydas Sabonis and Sacramento's Vlade Divac. The Sixers originally had projected the 6-10 Ratliff as a power forward, not a center.

In addition, Brown suggested that Ratliff's injury to his shooting hand could be more serious, although general manager Billy King said the 76ers knew as much as the Hawks about Ratliff's medical condition. Since he went on the injured list Feb. 13, the Sixers are 5-0.

The 76ers beat out several teams -- including New York, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix -- who also were in the hunt for Mutombo, the league's leading rebounder and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Atlanta general manager Pete Babcock said it was tough to part with Mutombo.

"We hate to see him go, both professionally and personally," he said. "The last thing I told him was I hope he wins a championship. That would be the greatest thing in the world that could happen for him, because he deserves it."

Babcock said the question for the Hawks was how they would use $15 million in salary cap room.

"We could have used it to sign Dikembe and have him finish his career here, which we would have had no problems doing conceptually, because we think the world of him," he said. "But there's no room to add other pieces to the puzzle to build around him."

Philadelphia paid a high price -- trading Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes in recent seasons to acquire Ratliff and Kukoc -- but the Sixers decided it wasn't too much for a center who they believe will enhance their chances of winning a championship.

"We're trying to get out of the East (in the playoffs), and I think it's imperative for us to win as many games as we can right now to position ourselves so we can get out of the East," Brown said.

Mutombo isn't known for scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game compared with 12.4 for Ratliff and 8.0 for Kukoc, who never won a starting spot as the team had hoped.

"I have this philosophy, if you stop people from scoring you don't have to score as much," said Brown, adding that Mutombo's shot-blocking and rebounding will give the rest of the team more scoring opportunities.

Mutombo was expected to arrive in Philadelphia for a medical check Friday and could join the team as early as Friday night in Detroit.

Brown said he wasn't concerned about altering the team's chemistry this late in the season, noting that Mutombo's easy-going nature should help him fit in easily.

"We have to make sure when we add pieces to this team, they're quality guys, they're character guys. It's obvious this guy is that," Brown said. "He's a quality human being and that's what this team needs."

Atlanta, which had been shopping Mutombo since last summer, gets a younger center in Ratliff, who was having a dominating season, leading the league in blocked shots before fracturing his wrist this month.

The Hawks also get a player in Kukoc who can step right into their starting lineup alongside Brevin Knight, Jason Terry and Lorenzen Wright.

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