Don’t look now, but Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov and Russia may be the only thing standing between U.S. and the gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
Mozgov and Russia are off to a 4-0 start and won the Group B with a couple of impressive victories.
Mozgov is averaging 12.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in the Olympics and has been a big part of Russia’s victories over Brazil and Spain. Mozgov scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help Russia sneak past Brazil 75-74. He followed that up with another solid performance against Spain’s Marc and Pau Gasol. Mozgov scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Russia beat the heavily-favored Spain, 77-74. He also dunked the ball with 18 seconds left to break the tie.
Ironically in both games Mozgov faced former teammates. Nene in Brazil and Rudy Fernandez with Spain. Russia finishes up poll play Monday against Australia.
It will be interesting to see how Mozgov’s strong play in the Olympics will impact his play next season. Hopefully it will give the 7-foot-1 center some added confidence. Toward the end of last year, he was the odd man out. Fans saw him as being replaceable and the coaching staff lost confident in his game.
Mozgov, who had 12 DNP-CD (Did not play-coach’s decision) after the JaVale McGee trade, struggled with his confidence down the stretch and fell behind both McGee and Kosta Koufos in the rotation.
Despite McGee’s new $44-million/4-year contract there is a good chance that Mozgov begins the season as the Nuggets starting center. Mozgov’s defense against Andrew Bynum was impressive and McGee played much better coming off the bench than starting.
It’s easy to forget that Mozgov struggled with a sprained ankle down the stretch of last season, when healthy he was a big part of the Nuggets rotation. No doubt the big man is hoping to have a breakout season, especially since it is his contract year.