Ike Diogu has spent five years in a bottle. During four of those years he was a natural force waiting to be unleashed; Diogu played limited minutes for multiple Warriors iterations, landed in Indiana, was sent to Portland, and wound up in Sacramento, all without regular playing time or a role worthy of his talent. He’s been around, and yet in spite of impressive per-minute production, Diogu has yet to find a proper gig. He wasn’t a starter. He wasn’t a sixth man. He wasn’t even a utility big, really. He has filled in minutes here and there, but his career hasn’t been more than a series of sublets.
Now, despite being linked to the Mavs as a training camp prospect, it’s seems Diogu will have no lease in Dallas, either.
In some ways, it’s hard to blame the Mavericks’ brass for passing on a chance to sign Diogu. He is, after all, coming off a season lost in its entirety. The dreaded microfracture surgery saw to that, and it’s on such a note that I hope the Mavericks hesitated. When healthy, Diogu was a contributor. In better days, he was everything that Mavs fans found so endearing in Brandon Bass, but with sharper interior scoring and superior rebounding. He was capable of having that type of impact, on good teams or bad, on fast teams or slow. Ike Diogu was a player, and yet because of a few bad hands, this post reads like an obituary.
If Ike’s injury really has grounded him, Dallas was right to pass. However, should Diogu show for another team in another camp? I won’t quite understand the Mavs’ logic. Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak (among others) will be joining the Mavs on unguaranteed deals, but both are niche players. Each has a role and fills it well, but if Dallas is looking for a candidate to play consistent frontcourt minutes, I fail to see Diogu’s (non-injury) downside.
He obviously has weaknesses in his game (Defense and court sense, ay, caramba!), but Diogu can hit the boards and create on the offensive end, even if he often does so with blinders on. That’s something otherwise lacking among the Maverick reserves. His game offers more than a neat little trick, or token court balance; Diogu is a certifiable low-post option, particularly against second-string bigs. He’s capable of being something the Mavericks need, whether they acknowledge that to the public or not.
Or at least he was capable of being something the Mavericks need, last we saw him. Back then, Diogu was dropping big-time double-doubles in meaningless games, a plea for observers to raise his projected ceiling. The proper headroom does give the Diogu estate the appropriate character, but now, right or wrong, that very ceiling’s structural integrity has come into question. Diogu’s career marks of 17.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes should speak for themselves, and I hope they do. More importantly, I hope that the Mavericks listened. I hope they honestly and truly considered Diogu, only to find him slowed to the point of ineffectiveness by his injury, unfortunate though that may be. I hope that there is something going on here aside from a determination that “Ike Diogu is no Brian Cardinal.”
There has to be.