LAS VEGAS -- In the 2005 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Ian Mahinmi from France with their first round pick. This left many Spurs fans scratching their heads. Many questioned who he was and why the Spurs drafted him. He even wasn't listed among the 128 players in the league's draft guide.
As Spurs fans got to see him play in the 2006 Rocky Mountain Review and in the D-League with the Austin Toros, they saw an atheletic freak which left them yearning for him joining Tim Duncan in the post.
Then came the injuries, the constant send backs to the Austin Toros, fouling out of games, all which led to the frustration of Spurs fans and may have led to the Spurs announcing they would not be picking up the last year of his contract.
With things not working out well for Mahinmi in San Antonio, he made the decision to sign with the Dallas Mavericks as a free-agent this summer and is ready to begin a new chapter in his NBA career.
While I was at the 2010 Summer League, I got a chance to talk to Mahinmi about his time with the Spurs, joining the Mavericks, and more.
During my interview with him, I did notice that despite how things turned out for him with the Spurs, he knows where it all began for him and appreciated every moment, "Those three years with the Spurs were unbelievable," Mahinmi said when I asked him about his time in San Antonio, "I improved a lot every year. Even though I broke my ankle three years ago, I still improved. Its been a long process and I think the main thing I learned from the Spurs is that toughness, that mental toughness of the game. To make sure what you are doing on defense and do it everyday."
Though Mahinmi has been in the NBA for three years, he is fully aware the journey to becoming a better player is still a work in process and that process couldn't have started better for the young player than to have Spurs forward, Tim Duncan, to learn from.
Now he will be playing with another great forward in Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki, and he is looking forward to that learning experience, "Its great for me. It's great to be around those guys and I think that will pay off. If I keep working and I keep listening to those vets. It’s a very great experience for me being able to play alongside two great guys like that."
Credit Mahinmi for knowing it took more than just Duncan to learn from. He recognized the other players he was with in San Antonio who helped his development, "But I played with many great guys like Robert Horry, (Antonio) McDyess. It was just great for my experience."
Now he is taking the lessons learned in San Antonio to Dallas, “My main thing is to keep improving. Keep helping my team no matter what I got to do," said Mahinmi when I asked him what he is looking forward to as a new member of the Mavericks.
“I just want to keep improving on another winning team. I just want to win some more. I think we got a great organization. I got great teammates like Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, (Jason) Terry, Rodrigue Beubouis, Dirk (Nowitzki). There's good players all over the place. I think we got a good group of guys and we are very talented. I am looking forward to next season and I am going to do everything I can to help my team win.”
However, there is one date he is going to circle on his calendar once the 2010-2011 NBA season schedule is released, "You look forward to those games,” said Mahinmi when I asked him about the first game he will play against the Spurs next season, “I really got great memories, three great years. Its going to be weird to go to the visitors locker room in the AT&T Center. As a matter of fact I never been in there!”
“I am just looking forward to that game when I go play the Spurs and hopefully we do good and we win. Now I am all the way with the Mavs. If we (Mavericks) can beat them (Spurs) by 40 let’s do it!"
And if the visitor's locker room in the AT&T Centeris going to be a new experience for him, he is also joining the other side of the heated Spurs-Mavericks rivalry, “Its especially weird," Mahinmi told Project Spurs when asked about joining the Dallas side of the rivalry, "The first time I wore my blue jersey … I'm just used to that black and silver jersey. I told my trainer, 'It's funny, everything is weird, everything is blue!' But after a while, I’m used to it and I like it.”
Mahinmi is ready to prove himself after being unable to showcase his talents in San Antonio. He has the skill set to be a solid NBA player and while some Spurs fans feel he was a draft day bust, he holds no ill will towards them and wishes the Spurs a good season, “I hope they (Spurs) have a great season next year. I hope the Spurs organization gives a good show to the Spurs fans because they deserve it. They been very great to me. They are very great fans and I think the Mavs have great fans too.”
Of course during my interview with Mahinmi, he showed he is ready when it comes to joining the Mavericks side of the rivalry, “Hopefully we will meet in the playoffs next season and we can beat them!”