Mike Loves Mozgov: A Focus On Knick Centers

Russia

During Worlds, Timofey Mozgov had this impressive block on the Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic from the other side of the basket. It's plays like these that has Knick coach Mike D'Antoni giddy. (Source: Yardbarker.com)

As the New York Post reported, Knick coach Mike D’Antoni is gaga for new Russian center Timofey Mozgov.

“I’m trying to hold down, curb my enthusiasm,” D’Antoni said of Mozgov. “I think he can play. I don’t see anything bad.”

D’Antoni has tried to stop himself from gushing over Mozgov like he used to gush over Danilo Gallinari and David Lee. But D’Antoni has already called Mozgov training camp’s brightest light.

[...]  D’Antoni even marveled at Mozgov during yesterday’s light practice.

“I watched him,” D’Antoni said. “He can shot the ball, nice rhythm. He has a learning curve. But he’s smart. He makes foul shots. His confidence is good. He’s definitely not shying away, attacking the basket.”

One quick comment, and this is just something odd I’m pointing out, so don’t put extra weight in this, but since we’ve been talking about race issues this past week, isn’t it kinda odd that all three of D’Antoni’s faves have been honkeys?

Of course, clearly just being white ain’t enough to get you into Mike’s good graces, as former bench steadier Darko Milicic can attest.  In fact, with the Knicks about to play Darko’s current team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the seven-time bust was discussed, with D’Antoni giving a great response.

[In the upcoming game, Darko] will look for revenge after being banished from the rotation after seven games last season.

The Knicks traded Milicic at the deadline to Minnesota, where he had a strong finish and received a shocking, four-year, $16 million contract.

When [D'Antoni was] asked if he was surprised Milicic had reversed his career, D’Antoni remained defiant. “Nothing’s reversed yet except he signed a contract,” he said. “You can bust my chops later, but not yet.”

Oh, and while we’re talking about lame Knick centers, here’s an update on our favorite overweight, overpaid, overinjured man:

D’Antoni never mentioned Eddy Curry, expected to be waived after February’s trading deadline when his expiring contract no longer is a trading pawn.

In other words, as we all assumed, Curry probably won’t play a single minute this season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knicks even tell him to stay away from the team.  They’ll keep him on the roster until February as his expiring contract can still be a very valuable commodity.  After that February deadline, he’s not only no use as a player but can’t even be used as a trade chip.  So if they can’t move him for something great before then, they’ll just let his salary come off the books so they can make a run at free agents over next summer.

Alright just talking about Darko and the Currster makes me feel dirty, so let’s get back to talking about more pleasant center options.  Apparently, D’Antoni would like to give Timo the starting center spot but there are two concerns.  One, which of course will be overcome in time, is the language barrier, which reared its head in yesterday’s preseason game:

Mozgov, who speaks only a drop of English, experienced a series of defensive lapses but only because he misheard the defensive scheme.”We changed up our pick-and-roll defense to a zone and over,” D’Antoni said. “He only heard zone. And for four plays, I was like, ‘Why are they scoring?’ He just heard zone.”

The second concern is one we’ve already talked about: Timo’s still pretty foul-prone so he might be better coming off the bench.

Another thing that makes the Timo situation odder is that I think part of the reason D’Antoni’s leaning towards starting him is because he hasn’t fully been satisfied by the other two guys who will share the minutes at the center spot: Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph.  No one can question Turiaf’s effort, but there’s a reason the man has never played like 30 minutes a game.  He’s great at blocking shots, but only fair at rebounding, and mediocre on offense (and for a coach like D’Antoni, being good at O is key).

“Ronny’s going to be an energy guy, block shots, very good defensively,” D’Antoni said. “Offensively, that will come. He was out for a while last year, so he’s a little rustier than normal.”

As far as Randolph, the same inconsistencies that plagued him in Golden State clearly have unsurprisingly followed him here.  His outside shot hasn’t been great and he sometimes held onto the ball far too long, so that at one point during the first pre-season game D’Antoni started yelling for him to keep passing the ball.

So of course Turiaf will start tomorrow since we’re playing in his home country, France.  And with all of our center options having some flaws (and very different ones at that), there’s an intriguing possibility as to who will start:

“It might be open all year,” D’Antoni said. “We could have a revolving door. I’d love to settle down on one but maybe not. But I could see it being different week to week.”

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Tags: Anthony Randolph Darko Milicic Eddy Curry Mike D'Antoni Ronny Turiaf Timofey Mozgov

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