Cuttino Mobley Discusses NBA Comeback
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Cuttino Mobley has always carried himself with confidence. That swagger was apparent when he was suiting up for the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers, and he still gives off that same bravado nearly five years removed from his last game in the NBA.
The 37-year-old recently worked out for NBA teams and hopes to be on a roster next season, but he doesn’t like to characterize his potential return to the NBA as a comeback. He prefers to look at this as just his latest stint in the league.
“I haven’t gone nowhere,” Mobley told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve been in shape. I’m maybe six or seven pounds over my playing weight. That’s 222 and I haven’t played in, what, four and a half years? I’m a very disciplined person. I played every game and averaged 40 minutes. Comeback? Eh, I mean, if you want to call it that… I think I can still go a little bit.”
He doesn’t like to view this as a comeback because he didn’t really leave the game on his own terms. When he announced his retirement in December of 2008, it was because he didn’t think he had any other choice. He had just been diagnosed with a heart ailment called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the same illness that took the lives of Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers in the 1990s. He assumed that his basketball career was over, but he later learned that’s not necessarily the case.
Mobley has been evaluated by doctors since then and has been cleared to play. He wants everyone around the NBA to realize that he’s medically able to resume his career.
“I have the records that show it, I’ve passed my physical and nothing has changed since I came into the league as far as my body goes,” Mobley said. “It’s just about what team is going to take the chance or look at the evidence first, to put it that way. It’s like CSI. Look at the evidence first.”
Mobley recently participated in the ASM Sports pro-day at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. There were plenty of NBA decision-makers in attendance, with 28 teams represented. That’s why the veteran shooting guard felt it was the perfect environment to show that he’s healthy and able to play at a high level without any complications.
“I just want to let everyone know that I can play,” Mobley said. “And that I’m not going to be dropping dead and all of this other stuff that they put out there.”
Mobley played 11 seasons in the league, with career averages of 16 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals. With that said, he hasn’t appeared in a game since November 19, 2008. When asked if he can still contribute to an NBA team, he doesn’t hesitate with his response.
“No question,” Mobley said. “No question at all. With my IQ and my skill level, I can not only contribute on the court, but also help some of these younger guys. It’s a very fast game, on the court and off the court. You have to make the right judgments. Listen, I played last summer and I did extremely well at the Clippers’ facility with other guys who were pros. I definitely held my own. I already know that I can play.”
As Mobley said, he spent last offseason working out with members of the Los Angeles Clippers as well as fellow NBA free agents. Mobley’s personal assessment is accurate. He was, in fact, able to hold his own against the other professionals, according to several of the players who trained with the veteran. One of the players, who is now in the NBA, described Mobley as “looking great” last summer.
Mobley knows that some people doubt that he can still play in the league, but he couldn’t care less what those critics think. He has been doubted at every step of his basketball career, but he succeeded anyway. He has always exceeded expectations, becoming a star at the University of Rhode Island and outperforming his draft position after being selected with the 41st overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.
“I’ve always been like that,” Mobley said. “Growing up, they told me I was going to go NAIA, DIII. Then, when I was DI, they told me I wasn’t going to go to the pros. Then they told me if I do go, I’m going to be on the bench. It’s always been like that. It’s people who never really played the game, they only watched it. No disrespect to them, but you’ve got to walk in that person’s shoes and see the adversity they’ve had before you start judging.”
There are plenty of players from Mobley’s draft class who are still playing in the league including Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Mike James, Nazr Mohammed, Rashard Lewis and Al Harrington. And those players have remained in the NBA without taking several years off, like Mobley did.
However, those players don’t have a heart ailment that could scare off potential suitors. Front offices are always hesitant to bring in a player with a heart issue, even if doctors have cleared that individual to play. Not only will Mobley have to prove that he can still make an impact in the NBA, he has to ensure teams that his health won’t be an issue if he gets back on a roster.
Mobley misses the NBA game and lifestyle, which he really enjoyed during his 11 seasons in the league.
“I love the camaraderie,” Mobley said. “Helping the younger guys, being with my peers and seeing guys develop; I like to see that.”
He believes it’s only a matter of time until he’ll be back on an NBA roster. He feels that he still has something to offer a team, on the court as a significant contributor and in the locker room as a veteran leader.
Mobley refuses to believe that his career is over and that his retirement is final. It’s why he doesn’t call this a comeback and why he views the last four years as a short break from the NBA rather than the next chapter of his life.
“I love the game,” Mobley said. “I’ve just been resting for four years.”