When Knicks fans win and America wins, everybody wins! The United States team pulled away in the second half to knock Russia out of the FIBA World Championships, but Timofey Mozgov got his chance to spin and looked pretty sharp in backup minutes. Here's a quick summary of what we saw:
- Timofey backed up Sasha Kaun and definitely outplayed him. He probably could've snatched more of Kaun's minutes had he not been in foul trouble throughout the game. Be it on loose balls, moving screens, or shot contests, Mozgov is a physical player, and his timing and positioning will have to be a little sharper if he ever wants to get major NBA minutes. That said, Mozgov won't be getting major minutes this season, so he's welcome to foul away. The Knicks could use that physicality...well, maybe not the moving screens.
- One of Mozgov's fouls came when Derrick Rose drove to the rim and Timo pasted his shot against the backboard. The refs whistled a phantom foul, but not a single Knicks fan saw the call because we were all changing our underpants.
- Russia played a ton of zone, and often switched when they found themselves in man-to-man. Mozgov thereby found himself stranded at the top of the key a lot, but did a solid job of granting quicker players like Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups a step while still contesting their jump shots. He actually got a piece of a Durant jumper and deterred a few others.
- Kenny Smith would call Mozgov a "shallow water" player because he didn't score at all outside the immediate vicinity of the rim. He did plenty of work, though, setting screens high, low, and on the baseline, and rarely planting himself in one spot. Timo picked, rolled, set up, then rinsed and repeated if the ball didn't come his way. He's a delight to watch off the ball. And when the ball did find him, Timo showed he has what it takes to catch and finish with contact. Mozgov connected some dunks with contact, and also showed the ability to hang and adjust with hands in his face.
- Rebounding-wise, Mozgov was as advertised. He did a nice job boxing out, but didn't really get after boards like you'd hope he would. Particularly on the offensive glass, there were a handful of loose balls that Timo might have secured if he'd committed a bit more. He'll need to step up that aspect of his game to distinguish himself on these newly David Lee-less Knicks.
- Sasha Kaun is shaped like a trapezoid.
All in all, Mozgov held his own against NBA talent and lived up to his billing as a flawed but effective player. Nobody anywhere is saying he'll be a hall-of-famer, but I expect him to be a contributor on this season's Knicks if Mike D'Antoni grants him the minutes. Mozgov has an excellent feel for the pick-and-roll, and the physicality to tussle with NBA players, and I see no reason why he can't be a rotation player on day one. Timo 4 lyfe.