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Houston's Mutombo leaves playoff game on stretcher

THE Houston Rockets' Dikembe Mutombo injured his left knee in yesterday's playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers and left the court on a stretcher.

The Congolese reserve center appeared to get tangled with Portland center Greg Oden and came down hard on the leg late in the first quarter of Game 2.

Mutombo stayed prone on the court under the Blazers' basket for several moments before he was taken from the court. A preliminary examination revealed a knee strain and he was ruled out the rest of the game.

Afterward in Houston's locker room, the 7-foot-2 (2.18-meter) veteran was on crutches and fighting back tears.

"Nobody ever thought they'd be carrying the big guy out like a wounded soldier," he said.

Mutombo, the league's oldest player at 42, will be examined by doctors in Houston today.

"Dikembe is one of the statesmen of this league," teammate Shane Battier said. "There's not a better guy. To see him in pain is tough to see. He cares so much about this game that he doesn't want to end his career like that. That's the tragedy of it, too."

Mutombo is an eight-time All-Star who won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award four times and stands in second on the NBA's career blocks list with 3,289. He has played for Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Houston.

In 1,196 career games, Mutombo has averaged 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

Moreover, Mutombo is know for his humanitarian work. He founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997 to benefit the people of his homeland of Kinshasha in the Congo. In 2007, he opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center there, named after his mother.

The Rockets re-signed Mutombo in December after he played in 39 games with the team the previous season. He was a free agent and had considered retirement.

He played in nine regular-season games with the Rockets, averaging 1.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.22 blocks.

Mutombo played 18 minutes in Game 1 of the series and had nine rebounds. The Rockets won the opener, 108-81, before the Blazers evened the series with a 107-103 victory on Tuesday.

"I've had a wonderful 18 years of staying injury-free, so I just want to go out with my head up, no regrets," he said.


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