THE time is so short for former Los Angeles Laker DJ Mbenga to adjust to Barako Bull’s system.
So the seven-foot Belgian national is tearing a page from Laker great Kobe Bryant's playbook in his bid to return to top shape and lead the Energy Cola to the Commissioner's Cup playoffs.
“I mean, I’m a professional. I’ll do what I have to do to get into shape, even if I’m not 100 percent now,” Mbenga told Spin.ph shortly after his first workout with the Barako Bull coaching staff led by consultant Rako Toroman and Bong Ramos at the Ronac gym in San Juan.
In the three seasons he played as backup center to Andrew Bynum with the Lakers, Mbenga said he saw first-hand how hard Bryant worked to polish his game and lead the franchise to victory.
“(I learned from Kobe) hard work, be more professional. To get the job done and do what we need to do in game,” Mbenga said in his African accent as he shares the valuable lessons he learned from the 6-foot-6 former NBA MVP.
Mbenga owns a career-NBA average of 1.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in 6.7 minutes through 234 games playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Lakers and finally, with the New Orleans Hornets during the 2010-2011 season.
The two-time NBA champion, who replaced Evan Brock at Barako, has been out of commission for the past three months since his last stint with the Qingdao DoubleStar of the Chinese Basketball Association.
With Barako Bull going up against Petron on Sunday followed by games against Rain or Shine and Globalport to round out its elimination-round schedule, Mbenga said he’ll do a little of everything and try to fit in as quick as possible with his teammates.
“Three games, five games, 100 games, it’s basketball, we’ll do what we have to do,” he said
“As a basketball player, I come to do my job, score, rebound, work together as a team, and then we’ll win,” added the 32-year-old NBA journeyman.
People may expect a lot from him considering his seven-year NBA experience playing for four different teams, but Mbenga said he can’t do the job alone, adding he’ll need the help of the rest of his teammates to help Barako Bull make it to the quarterfinals.
“One person can’t make it. Even as I play with the best players in the world, it takes five to win, by themselves they can’t win. I expect the team to be together to win,” he added.