Well over an hour before the Knicks and Washington Wizards tipped off at the Garden on Monday night, Timofey Mozgov was putting in a game’s worth of work with Knicks assistant coach Phil Weber.
Shooting mid range jumpers, powering to the basket for dunks, and showing a nice touch from the perimeter, the 7’1″, 260-pounder from St. Petersburg, Russia, displayed enticing skills. Yet his proficiency during these regular sessions has thus far not transferred well enough for head coach Mike D’Antoni when there are nine other players on the court and the score is being kept.
The 24-year-old Mozgov, the Knicks’ first Russian born player, has seen little light over the past two months. After beginning the season starting nine of the Knicks’ first 11 games at center, he is now low in D’Antoni’s infamous pecking order along with forward Anthony Randolph.
By mid-December Mozgov’s playing time significantly decreased and lately his line has frequently read DNP (did not play) in the box scores, including 13 of the Knicks’ last 15 games
Mozgov has appeared in just 26 of the Knicks’ 44 games as No. 45 versus the Miami Heat tonight (Thursday) at MSG looms. He has averaged only 10 minutes, 2.3 points (on 37 percent shooting) and two rebounds.
“Timmy, we like him, we like his potential, he’s working extremely hard. (But) we went too fast too early,” said D’Antoni prior to the Knicks ending a six game losing streak with a 115-106 win over the Wizards to improve to 23-21.
“You saw his athleticism… The more he sits he’s watching and learning. And hopefully we can get him in there sooner than later but that’s not a sure thing because other guys have stepped up and played really well.
Needing a big man, the Knicks signed Mozgov last July after he spent six years playing professionally in Russia. As a member of the Russian national team, he was impressive at the World Championships held in August and September, scoring a solid 13 points against the gold medal winning USA squad.
“There is a big difference between the NBA and playing (overseas),” said Mozgov in the Knicks locker room following his workout.
“I’m still learning how to read the game – on offense and defense. There are a lot of things (at which) I need to get better. But I’m working with the coaches and think I’m improving.”