Good news, everyone: It worked!
Mozgov hit a metaphorical ceiling when he played his first game for the Cavs on Friday. The 28-year-old Russian’s first showing wasn’t exactly mind-blowing, and his nine points on 3-for-7 shooting and eight rebounds weren’t enough to lift the LeBron-less team above the stellar Golden State Warriors, who won, 112-94. Mozgov entered in the first quarter and played a total of 27 minutes.
That said, neither the team nor Mozgov expected Friday’s performance to amount to much, considering he only had the afternoon to learn the plays.
“Not the optimum situation for putting him in a game right away, but it’s necessary and the sooner the better,” coach David Blatt said before the game on Friday (via Cleveland.com).
“With [my] size,” Mozgov added. “I’ll try to do my best. Whatever coach asked me to do.”
As Mozgov continues to practice with the team, he’ll likely wind up a starter, possibly as soon as Sunday when the Cavs visit the Sacramento Kings. The Cavs have known of their need to get a big man on the court for months, but it became explicitly clear after Anderson Varejao suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in late December.
Blatt, who previously coached Mozgov on the Russian national team in the 2012 Olympics, had his eye on Mozgov since July, ESPN reports, so when Varejao was injured, Blatt upped the ante to get him, ceding two future first-round picks to the Nuggets in the process. He seems to think it was worth it, though.
“If need be, I could talk to him in Russian, that’s for sure,” Blatt said (via ESPN). “Otherwise, Timo knows how to play and he’ll give us what he can.”
(H/t: Bleacher Report)