Luc Mbah a Moute was once considered one of the league’s elite defenders. In his five NBA seasons, the veteran forward made a name for himself on the defensive side of the floor.
But over the last two years, injury woes have slowed down his career. Bothered by issues with his right knee, Mbah a Moute has not been the same player who built his reputation guarding multiple positions. However, the 27-year-old veteran appears confident that in a new environment, team and system, he can get back on track.
“I think it’s exciting, but there’s also a lot of responsibilities,” Mbah a Moute said during media day last week of the newness surrounding the Kings franchise. “So just take on the challenge, that’s all I’m looking forward to.”
Mbah a Moute has missed a total of 57 games the last two seasons due to a myriad of health problems. He had knee surgery after the lockout-shortened season in 2012, but recovery kept him sidelined through December.
Mbah a Moute’s injury woes came on the heels of a new contract in 2011. The former UCLA Bruin earned a four year, $19-million extension in Milwaukee after the Bucks matched a restricted free agent offer extended by the Denver Nuggets.
With two years and approximately $9 million remaining, the Cameroonian native is convinced that his injury woes are behind him.
“I think last season I came in, I didn’t even start the season,” Mbah a Moute said. ”I was still recovering from surgery. So it’s just so much better to come in the season and be in shape, and having played this summer and feeling healthy and all that. So I’m excited.”
Following the conclusion of his final year with the Bucks, Mbah a Moute had no additional procedures done to his right knee. And this summer, the veteran forward felt healthy enough to play for his national team in Cameroon. According to Mbah a Moute, that time with the Cameroonian national team helped him recalibrate his body.
“I was just trying to get stronger and just play,” Mbah a Moute said of participating in this year’s Afrobasket tournament. ”A lot of times you can correct a lot of those things by playing, just being comfortable playing. That’s what I did, I played with the national team.”
Mbah a Moute is in what appears to be a two-man race with John Salmons to start at small forward. However, his versatility to defend multiple positions may lend itself to head coach Michael Malone, who will likely tinker with Mbah a Moute’s place on the floor.
If that’s the case, Mbah a Moute doesn’t mind. With a reputation around the NBA for having the ability to defend anyone from Chris Paul to LeBron James, the 27-year-old veteran is ready to contribute wherever he can.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Mbah a Moute said when asked what position he prefers to play. ”I think if you asked (someone else), I’ll say probably at the small forward. But I always end up guarding guys (at different positions). Sometimes point guards to centers even, so I mean to me it doesn’t matter. My goal is just to come in here and whatever position I’m at, try to help the team and try to do what I do.”
Sacramento represents a new chapter for the sixth year pro’s career. Fingers crossed, he’s also hoping that it represents a new chapter for his well-being.
“I feel great,” Mbah a Moute said of his health here this preseason. ”I’m feeling good right now so I’m excited man. It should be fun.”