LAS VEGAS – Looking back, it was surprising that Pops Mensah-Bonsu was passed over in the NBA draft last June. After all, he's a chiseled 6-foot-9, 250-pounder and a winning college player out of George Washington with a reputation as a relentless worker. Some team was expected to take him in the second round, but oddly, it never happened.
So Mensah-Bonsu signed a free agent contract with the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks, despite the fact that there wasn't much room on the bench of maybe the NBA's deepest team. Still, he wanted an opportunity, and Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson richly rewarded him by granting one.
Mensah-Bonsu has shuttled between the NBA and neighboring Fort Worth of the NBA Developmental League. On Saturday afternoon, he starred in the D-League All-Star game, scoring 30 points and grabbing seven rebounds to earn Most Valuable Player honors in the East's 114-100 victory over the West.
There's no playing time for Mensah-Bonsu in the NBA, so he's understood that Fort Worth is where he could prove his worthiness to Nelson and Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.
"I'm a Maverick," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I'm going to be a Maverick. As competitive as I am, I am not really mad that I'm not getting a lot of time because we obviously have the best power forward in the game (Dirk Nowitzki) and the best team in the NBA. So I can't complain about not getting a lot of minutes. My time will come. I have to pay my dues."
Mensah-Bonsu is still fairly new to the game of basketball, and he believes that the more minutes he gets the more opportunity he'll have to grow. Perhaps because he's undrafted he sees the D-League much more like an opportunity than a sentence.
"I think the question about me is whether I can guard multiple positions," said Mensah-Bonsu, who has averaged 15 points a game for Fort Worth under coach Sidney Moncrief. "I think what coach (Johnson) wants from me is more experience. I haven't been playing basketball too long, so my basketball I.Q. – I'm increasing that every day."