Timofey Mozgov talks about his 23 + 14 game
This time it’s not a post from Timofey’s personal blog, but an interview from the newspaper Sovetsky Sport. Questions by Kirill Zangalis. (UPD: later I translated Timofey’s blog post about the game too: read it!)
– Timofey, congratulations from all of the Sovetsky Sport readers. It was hard to reach you.
– Yes, my phone got hot from all the calls. The first to call me was my Russian agent Maxim Sharifyanov. This is the man who has supported me really well during hard times. He’s a very jovial guy. Today he started not with excitement but with a joke. He said, “Hey Tim, did they change the rules in the NBA and made the games longer? So this is why you played 40 minutes”. I heard a dear voice and relaxed immediately. Then we couldn’t stop talking. After all, Max and me went through a lot together, and my success is on his part too.
– Didn’t your parents cry with joy?
– What’s to cry about? Mom and dad didn’t watch the game, but after they saw the stats they dialed my number immediately. Then my brothers called. What can you say, it was a family happiness.
– Rejoicing aside… After ten games with no playing time and an ejection in that game vs. Phoenix, it looked like your road in the NBA was getting way too winding…
– I won’t lie to you, I was terribly worried. I felt that I could, that I only needed a tiny chance, that if I got 15 or 20 minutes I could do a lot. But like that, when you get on the court for two minutes in the end of the game, when it’s done… What can you do in that time? But I didn’t lose hope, because I was getting prepared to spend my first season sitting on the bench and learning. Still, everything was going great during practices. Then why can’t I mix it up like that in a game? And then that terrible incident in Phoenix…
– Remind us about it…
– It was a couple minutes before the end of the game. We were losing hopelessly, and D’Antoni put me in the game. I was overwhelmed with desire to prove myself. There was a regular episode where I was fighting to get the ball, and Robin Lopez was doing the same thing. We were battling just like bigs normally do: hard, nearly fouling each other. I was first to get to the ball, but Lopez pressed on my wrist and then quickly moved his hand away and kind of dove with his nose into my hand. So probably it looked like I hit him hard on purpose and that led to a rejection.
– Did the guys support you?
– The whole team was on my side. But what’s to make of it… It was already enough that I wasn’t playing, and there goes this outrageous rejection. At some moment I was close to a breakdown, I wanted to break a TV in my hotel room. But I’m an even-tempered guy. I told myself that there would be another chance, and went back to practicing hard. My girlfriend Alla was supporting me very well. I don’t even know what I would do without her.
– And here’s a chance. Chandler gets injured, Williams is suspended, Stoudamire has health issues. It’s only fitting for you to get to play at last.
– Every cloud has a silver lining. I felt bad for the guys, but in a situation like this one should care for himself first. I had a feeling since morning that it would be a good day. But I wasn’t preparing in any special way – whatever happens, happens. During the warm up I felt energized, I started to feel that give me any opponent now and I would tear everyone apart. And then Ronnie Turiaf received two quick fouls. D’Antoni ordered me to play, like, “your time has come”.
– But you couldn’t have had a worse start. When the ball left your hands for the first time, one could hardly call it a shot.
– Yes, it was a nightmare. I got two fouls, made a terrible shot and committed a turnover. Amare came to me and tried to make me calm down, but I only had a single thought in my head: “It’s over, Mike is going to bench me now”. But he didn’t say anything and I rushed into battle again. I attacked the rim and missed! I rebounded, attempted another shot and missed again! Another rebound, my third shot, and another bad miss!
But from there I got really angry, and from that moment everything started to fall in its place. It was like all my countless misfortunes came to an end. After that I almost didn’t leave the court and made 9 of 11 shots and five free throws.
– It only seemed that the game was easy for New York. You only managed to reverse the situation near the end of fourth quarter…
– It was nice that when the score was tied at 91:91 my friend Danilo Gallinari has started the run. He has hit a three-pointer, and then I rebounded the ball after a mid-range shot by Douglas and dunked it – 96:91. After that we never trailed again, and I scored the last two points of that game.
– In the end of the game people in the stands chanted your last name. As American journalists wrote, the noise could be heard it from other parts of the city.
– I can’t describe this feeling. I couldn’t even believe that all of that was happening to me. Just yesterday everything was different, and there it goes… I can say that I took a deep breath and could finally exhale.
– What did D’Antoni tell you after the game? He was saying good things about you to the media, almost promising to start you in the next game vs. Dallas…
– He praised me after the game and thanked me. Actually all the guys were happy for me. Gallinari said that he was already getting bored of scoring twenty per game and that now it was my turn.
– Do you feel like a hero?
– No, because I didn’t score 23 points in 10 minutes. I played a lot, and these are regular numbers in the NBA. And I’m sure that I will not make a double double each game. It’s just that I needed to believe that I could do it. This is the best league in the world, there’s nothing to top that. So if I manage to earn constant playing time, it would be my highest prize.
– Didn’t Alla faint in the stands?
– She managed to handle herself! She is a very strong girl.
– How did you celebrate?
– We went to the restaurant that we love which I already told you about, it’s called Mari Vanna. The food at that Russian place is just fantastic.
– What did you order: beer or some vodka?
– I have a strict regimen. But anyway, I don’t care about alcohol, even beer. During the game I drank so much water that I couldn’t even eat. I ordered some fried potatoes, shashlik and my favorite Herring under fur coat salad. Before, it didn’t happen once that I wouldn’t finish the Fur coat, but this time I couldn’t do it and the waiters packed it for me to go.
– Is it possible to fall asleep after a game like this?
– I’m not a very sensitive guy, but I was tossing and turning for a couple hours. The game was in my head. I thought about what and where I could have done better. You are never truly content with yourself.
– Is there practice in the morning?
– No, they let us sleep in. But I will drive to the weight room, because I don’t really have days off, sweating my guts out every day.
– The game vs. Dallas lies ahead. Right now you’ve risen high – aren’t you afraid of a painful fall? Some say it was a one-time thing…
– I don’t listen to anybody and I believe only in myself. Yes, they will expect great deeds like this in every game now. But as for me, I understand everything; I know how hard it is to stay on this level. I hope that I will be shooting at the rim like a Kalashnikov. There, Andrei Kirilenko is used to scoring about twenty points in a single game. I have a lot to do in order to improve to that level.
– Maybe the teammates will be looking not only at Stoudamire now, and the refs will stop giving you so much fouls.
– Well, after a heroic deed like this, for sure (laughs). Actually, nothing happened. I’m a regular guy who stays calm about everything. Whatever depends on me, I do, and the rest belongs to fate.