Some Plays Count: Timofey Mozgov (10/13/10)

With 10 new players, there are a lot of unknowns for the 2011 Knicks. However the biggest uncertainty in every sense of the word is Timofey Mozgov. D’Antoni chose to start him against the Celtics on October 13th, which provided a good first look at the youngster.

Here is a design of the first play.


Image of the play created with FastDraw.
Background track to video is none other than Still Flyin’.

Preseason Recap: Celtics 97 – Knicks 84

Can you see it?

Look real hard.

I know, right now, it’s only there in fits and spurts, like a Sasquatch that dashes into view only to be just as quickly herded back into its pen in Area 51, that one might be tempted to doubt that they had seen it at all.

But I’m telling you, there’s the making of a real durned good ball-team here.

But, not to wax too poetic for a Sunday afternoon when most of us (and your humble correspondent) are girdlaing our loins for the Manichean, proto-fascist, ground-acquisition war/blood orgy that is NFL Sunday in America (Let’s go Jets!), but watching the ‘Bockers late last night, I almost whispered to my teevee, “Inchworm! Climb Mount Fuji! But slowly, slowly…”

And yes, I oft quote Issa during ballgames. It’s a real hoot when I do it in bars.

Long story short, even without the Great God STAT, there were flashes of…something…in last night’s tilt v. the right proper Bostonians. Crisp passes as the ball flitted around the perimeter till the open man drained an uncontested J, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Earl n’ Clyde were doing their thang. Rotating on D? Defending the rim? Sweet fancy Moses, who are these guys?? Of course, somewhere in the 3rd quarter, this wondrous bounty of winning b-ball, seemed to crawl into a hole and die, but for stretches there…

Anyhoo. Here’s a bit of, “The good, the bad and the random/jejune.”

THE GOOD

Ray Felton – Ray-Ray finally had a game that implied why DW would lavish 15 million upon his rounded shoulders. He was confident in his shot, got to the rim quite a bit and generally hit the open man. I was semi-resigned to him being, “A faster Chris Duhon, “ so while 6-13, 16 points, 5 dimes, doesn’t exactly scream Nash 2.0, he held his own against the otherworldly Rondo. (And boy, isn’t “Balkman over Rondo” starting to look like one of the worst draft blunders ever?)

Danilo Gallinari – Someone must have told him that the 22’ ring on either end of the court isn’t an electrified fence or something because Il Gallo actually decided to take it to the bucket a few times. And lo! He had his best game so far. Go figure. There’s very few sights in this work-a-day world more enjoyable than Paul Pierce with a royally pissed-off look on his mug because he can’t fathom how he got whistled for hacking a guy (our Danilo) who runs like a drunk careening down 9th Avenue, crashing into mailboxes/streetlights, trying to avoid an imaginary cop.

Wilson Chandler – I’m convinced that someone fixed his shot this off-season. He’s holding the ball more out in front, using his legs and less launching the ball from behind his shoulders/fading away. It’s definitely working as Ill Will Chill’s looked like a legit SG for the first time, well…ever.

Landry Fields – He’s just got a knack. Granted, the bulk of his minutes came when the Knicks were going through one of their trademark, “Someone put cellophane over the hoop so there’s like, seriously no effing way we can score, ” stretches, but, He. Just. Makes. Plays. I think he’s gotta be in the rotation sooner rather than later.

THE BAD

Toney Douglas – Toney certainly didn’t do what Toney Douglas do in this one. His shot was off, he had gobs of sloppy turnovers, and the offense up and croaked when he was running it. Still, I have complete and utter faith that he’ll turn it around ASAP

Anthony Randolph – Oh, I so want him to be good. And you can tell by watching that he does too. Therein lies the problem. He so wants to do something that makes the crowd collectively go, “Ooo!”, that yanks the mob out of their seats and transforms them into a sea of suitors sooooo badly that he’s prone to some godawful blunders/seems like someone tought him how to play, like, yesterday. In addition, when he errs, like by say lofting a Jamal Crawford-esque off-balance 20 foot brick, he instinctively fires a glance towards the bench to see if he’ll get yanked. Screw Don Nelson, we as fans need to give AR unconditional love and maybe a nice card or some candy every chance we can get.

Mike D’Antoni – pick a rotation, Coach. Pretty please?

THE JEJUNE

Mozgov! – Evidently, when Timofey got t’d up, he was saying to himself (and yes, when I imagine him speaking, it’s in Ivan Drago-style pidgin English), “I say, I no good with fouls. Referee say I talking to him. But I am talking to me! Now, when I foul. I say nothing…” Good times, good times.

Roger Mason Jr. – Is it me or does he look eerily like Larry Hughes out there. I don’t like him. Maybe it’s because he resembles Wee-Bay from the Wire, but the sooner Azubuike/Fields takes his pt, the better.

C’est tout, mes amis. I’m yoinked to watch the irrepressible John Wall and the goofily appealing Javale McGee tonight. In lieu of a separate game thread, feel free to add your thoughts on tonight’s game too. Even though the games don’t count, get them W’s!

Mozgov’s Preseason Garden Debut

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.


More game notes:

  • Amar’e finished with 30 points (on 13 shots) but the Knicks still lost. I wonder how many times I’m going to repeat that phrase?
  • On the flip side, Felton had 7 points on 11 shots. He didn’t have a particularly good defensive game either.
  • Bill Walker had 11 points (on 9 shots) and hit half of his threes. But he had 0 rebounds and 0 assists.
  • Randolph led the team in rebounds (6 tied with Gallo), but coughed it up 5 times. On the court it looks like he’s trying too hard.
  • After Amar’e the best players for the Knicks were Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields. The latter only played limited minutes, but you figure he’s working himself up the rotation, especially with Roger Mason’s poor night. Ill-Will looked great, hitting 2 of 3 treys and attempting 5 free throws. If he can do that consistently…
  • New York Knicks Preseason Preview 2011

    [The good folks at CelticsBlog.com, have been kind enough to invite us to participate in the 5th annual blogger preview. Here is my entry.]

    Team Name: New York Knicks
    Last Year’s Record: 29-53
    Key Losses: David Lee, Al Harrington, Chris Duhon, Tracey McGrady, The Stench of Futility
    Key Additions: Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronnie Turiaf, Roger Mason Jr., Landry Fields, Timofey Mozgov

    1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

    If you’re reading this section curious about what New York has done, then you’ve probably just awoken from a coma. Although if you’ve been a Knick fan over the last decade, that’s understandable. In any case, let me be the first to give you the good news. New York signed All Star Amar’e Stoudemire this offseason and has room to sign another top free agent. The bad news is that the team was aiming for two of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Instead the trio have formed the most hated thing this side of Justin Beiber.

    The Knicks also inked Raymond Felton to replace the inept Chris Duhon. Although the team did let home grown All Star David Lee go, getting Anthony Randolph in return could neutralize this loss if the young forward can reach his potential. Ronnie Turiaf will provide much needed shot blocking. Second round pick Landry Fields looked quite impressive in summer league, and Timofey Mozgov showed promise for Team Russia.

    2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

    The Knicks greatest asset in 2011 should be their athletic versatility. There’s no arguing that Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Ronnie Turiaf, and Timofey Mozgov are more physically able than David Lee, Chris Duhon, Jared Jeffries, Al Harrington, Darko Milicic, and Earl Barron. With a core of Felton, Randolph, and Stoudemire, the team could go big (add Gallinari, and one of Turiaf, Mozgov, Curry) or small (add two of Azubuike, Fields, Walker, Douglas, Mason, or Rautins). D’Antoni should be able to put out some interesting lineups, causing mismatches for their opponents. If Randolph or Gallinari can run the offense like Lee did last year, the Knicks could get very creative on the floor in a point guard-less offense when Felton needs a rest.

    If I had to choose a second strength it might be D’Antoni’s offense. The past two seasons New York featured a ragtag lineup due to the state of the franchise from the Isiah Thomas era. In back to back years the Knicks finished 17th in offensive efficiency, and this year’s team seems more tailor made for the coach. Given the pick & roll tandem of Stoudemire & Felton, the outside shooting of Azubuike, Mason, and Rautins, and the development of youngsters Gallinari, Douglas, Walker, and Chandler, D’Antoni should have plenty of weapons to assault opposing defenses.

    3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

    New York has been a bad rebounding team for D’Antoni’s tenure, and this is one area Donnie Walsh failed to address in remaking the team. Stoudemire, Gallinari, and Turiaf aren’t good rebounders, and the loss of hyalophile David Lee will hurt the team as well. According to my stat page, the Knicks were 27th on both offensive and defensive rebounding last year. Knick fans who cringe at their team forgoing any second opportunities while allowing tip ins from the opposition will have a furled brow for much of the season. Perhaps Randolph and Mozgov can work their way into heavy minutes and help prevent the bleeding.

    Last year the Knicks were tied for 3rd worst defense in the NBA, and it has been a recurring issue with the team for the last decade. The Knicks have some good defensive pieces in Azubuike, Randolph, Douglas, and Turiaf. However most of the team (including the coaching staff) leans to the offensive side of the spectrum. If New York isn’t among the 10 worst defenses this year, it should be considered an accomplishment.

    4. What are the goals for this team?

    On April 29th, 2001, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell combined for 44 points and led a Marcus Camby-less New York to victory over Toronto. Despite being up 2 games to 1 in a best of 5 series, the Raptors would win the next two games and knock the Knicks out in the first round. That was the last New York playoff win. The Knicks should aim to end that drought before the streak reaches its 10th birthday. To do so, they’ll need to do better than the 8th seed, since that spot will likely face the Miami Heat, who will likely sweep their first round opponent.

    A playoff spot would mean success for the Knicks. A playoff win would be a nice bonus. Anything beyond a second round appearance would be a Gotham fantasy. On the other hand, entering the draft lottery would be seen as a complete failure considering the team has offered Houston the right to swap picks.

    5. Who is D’Antoni going to alienate this year?

    In 2009, Stephon Marbury was exiled from the team. In 2010 Nate Robinson was chained to the doghouse for most of the year, and was joined by Darko Milicic and Larry Hughes. As I mentioned last year, the D’Antoni Rules aren’t kind to players who aren’t in the rotation. The combination of D’Antoni’s short rotation and his inability to communicate with his players inevitably leads to a player being irate over a lack of playing time. This year’s likely candidate is Mozgov, given his inexperience and D’Antoni’s gigantasophobia. If I had to put money on a dark horse I’d take Turiaf or Chandler. The former has a Twitter predilection that might hit a nerve with the communicationally challenged D’Antoni. The latter because after having no competition at shooting guard for two seasons, Chandler might find himself on the outside looking in. Azubuike, Fields, and even Mason could push Wilson for playing time, and those players fit D’Antoni’s offense better than Chandler.