Timofey Mozgov’s Q&A after the Knicks preseason
Welcome to my new blog, where I will publish translations related to Russian hoops as well as write my own posts.
To get things going, here’s a quick translation of Timofey Mozgov’s Q&A which appeared in a recent issue of Sport-Express newspaper, original article by Pavel Osipov.
You have played eight games for the Knicks, even though it was preseason. Do you feel the difference with European basketball?
The difference is huge. First comes the approach to the game. It seems like nobody here values the ball, there are too many possessions. Everybody is so confident. A player can miss several shots it a row but just keep on shooting. Then, people treat outcomes of games differently. Nobody is too worried about several losses at the start of the season. In Russia if you lose one or two games it may cost you dearly near the end of the tournament.
Is it hard to adapt to the new playing style?
It was better the last two games. Here, one has to move in a completely different manner. Also the game is much more physical.
In your first game against Milano you played 19 minutes, scored ten points and grabbed five rebounds. How was that for an opener?
It was not bad. I understand it perfectly that I don’t have a spot on the team just yet. Yes, the coach allows me to shoot, but I have to earn this right.
You have fouled out twice in your first games against NBA teams . Why did it happen?
I didn’t figure out everything right away. Of course people explain it to me how to defend the right way. But I had too many offensive fouls. Didn’t set my picks right, putting the opponents on my back. Also one should not forget that if an opponent crashes into you in your paint, in the NBA the foul is on you.
You already got a starting job before the third game and then managed to keep it. Did it come as a surprise?
Of course I didn’t expect that, as well as getting so much playing time. I though it would be less in the beginning. But I can’t complain.
You played 36 minutes vs. the Sixers…
I was running all right in the first half, but then got a bit tired after the break. I used to play 30-32 minutes at most. Well, maybe it happened before that I played 36 minutes, but not at this level of course. Also, the Knicks’s playing style is to run, run and then run some more.
Do you personally feel that you are ready to be a starting center in the NBA?
Only time will tell. I guess I’m doing well so far…
Right now the Knicks is one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Is it good or not?
I think it’s good. At least near the end of the season young players should be fresher. But I can’t imagine it right now what it means to play 82 games in a season.
Are you frightened by this number of games?
What’s to be afraid of? I love playing basketball.
Who of you teammates do you talk the most with?
Gallinari and Turiaf.
Does it help that there are two other Europeans on the team?
Sure. Gallinari often gives me pieces of advice, explains the nuances to me. He has arrived from Europe not long ago, so he perfectly knows what to pay attention to when you’re just starting.
What are your relations with coach Mike D’Antoni?
They are working relations. Mike is a good coach, rather calm and reasonable. [Sergio] Scariolo in Khimki used to flame up much more often.
What does D’Antoni demand from you personally?
To run and to defend. Attack the basket when you’re open, and not to worry if you miss. It’s rather surprising that two centers joined the team at the same time, Turiaf and me. It is well known that D’Antoni doesn’t favor bigs; they aren’t always suited for his fast brand of basketball.
The Knicks have basically only one star player now in Amare Stoudamire.
It may be so. But basketball is a team game. Yes, Stoudamire is a great one on one player, I think one of the best in the league.
What’s your impression of him?
Off the court he doesn’t demand star treatment, just a regular outgoing guy. But on the court he’s unlike others. Stoudemire is very serious about everything that has to do with basketball. He comes early and is the first one to go through different procedures; he’s very professional when it comes to taking care of his body. Of course he’s very strong, but also very, very fast at the same time. He never takes some time off; never slow to get back on defense. He’s a real leader on and off the court.
Does he help you?
Yes, he explains stuff to me. [Laughing]. Even dished me the ball a couple times.
Did you score?
You should probably benefit from having a star teammate who can play not only at power forward, but also at center?
Stoudamire is a great man who has vast experience. There’s a lot to learn from him. I watch him all the time, the way he uses his strength, power and quickness. I already picked up some things.
Did you get yourself comfortable in New York?
I live 20 or 25 kilometers away from the city. This is a very good place, they say it’s the most prestigious suburb. It’s very calm and quiet here, and it only takes five minutes to get to the practice facility. And the city is not too far, it takes about 25-30 minutes to get there if you avoid traffic jams.
Is it a private house or apartment?
I have a large apartment in a good building, half of which is used as a hotel. About five other players from our team also live there.
Do people recognize you on the street?
Yes, mostly in shops. And it happens more often than in Russia. Sometimes they don’t recognize me right away. But as soon as I start talking, they are, “He-e-ey, you’re that Russian who’s going to play for the Knicks!” Then they wish me luck.
What do you expect from the upcoming season?
A lot of games. Air flights non-stop. I am sure that it will be hard physically. I’ve looked at our schedule – one can’t desire something like this to his enemy. I hope that I’m able to play well and help the team. And, of course, I need to get a constant spot on the roster.
What do you think the Knicks will be able to achieve?
We have a good team, good players. But to tell the truth, I never followed the NBA closely. I know that Lakers are the defending champions and that they beat Boston in the finals. Right now the most important thing is for us to come together as a team as soon as possible. I think we absolutely have to make the playoffs.