After a European Road Trip, the Knicks finally returned home for their first preseason game against the Celtics. The significance of this game was Timofey Mozgov’s first start for New York. The Knicks have been looking for a starting center to play alongside Amar’e Stoudemire, and it seems that Ronny Turiaf may have played himself out of the starting role for now.
Mozgov started off his Garden debut on the right foot. He made his first shot, an 18 foot jumper with 9:40 left in the first quarter. As Felton had the ball cross court dribbling towards the foul line, Mozgov was unguarded on the weakside and stepped into an open spot to receive the pass for an easy shot. Twenty four seconds later he made another open jumper, this time along the baseline. With 7:07 remaining, he showed great court vision and hit a wide open Felton in stride for an easy basket. Less than a minute later, he forced a driving Pierce into a turnover and was rewarded with the ball on the offensive end.
His first quarter wasn’t all positive, as Mozgov picked up a careless foul on a Jermaine O’Neal drive, and got a silly technical walking to the bench. The rest of the game was less impressive. He picked up two fouls in the second quarter. One nullifying a block on Pierce (Erden recovered and scored despite the foul). He came back in the third quarter, but back to back turnovers ended his night on a sour note.
Its too early to drink the Kompot on him being an NBA quality starting center. At the end of the night he only saw 15 minutes, netted 5 points and 3 rebounds along with 4 fouls. From a strictly statistical standpoint it’s what you’d expect from a rookie backup center. However a visual perspective showed him to be athletic for a big man with flashes of ability. Against Harangody, Mozgov closed out nicely on a perimeter shot attempt. His pass to Felton was Sabonis-worthy. And at least once he fought for a rebound tipping it to a teammate. In the end, Mozgov showed more potential than you’d expect from a player who flew under the NBA scouts radar. However he also reminded New Yorkers that he’s not quite ready for prime time.
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