With Cleveland all but confirming Kevin Love is done for the season, the Cavs are going to need a lot from Russia’s Timofey Mozgov to bring home a championship.
We’re not going to get a Willis Reed moment from Kevin Love this season. The Cavs have indicated it’s extremely unlikely the former Minnesota Timberwolves man gets back from injury to help Cleveland with its playoff push. At this stage he’s got as many games left in his season as the but bettors please don’t rip up your tickets just yet. All is far from lost. There is still the small matter of having the greatest player on earth in LeBron James and FIBA World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving at their disposal. Love’s importance however can’t be under-stated.
The main attraction, the man who sold so many tickets for the Miami Heat and brought the hordes back the to Quicken Loans Arena is LeBron James. A star doesn’t win championships without a supporting cast. He can sell out arenas all over the world but the King needs his soldiers. In Timofey Mozgov, LeBron has an able warrior.More is going to go on the shoulders of Cleveland’s biggest stars but the same is true for the supporting cast.
Few can be more important in that regard than Mozgov, a true David Blatt guy from their time together on the Russian national team who brought with him the inside power needed to get the Cavs back in gear mid-season. Mozgov has held his own up until now. For the rest of the playoffs, he’s got to do a lot more than hold his own. Mosgov has to step up and become more than he was asked to be when he came to Cleveland.
For the Russian, that’s a much easier task than it may look. At his two previous stops in the NBA, New York and Denver, everybody expected Mozgov to do a job but he excelled beyond expectation in both homes. Now he’s playing for a coach who loves to have the odds stacked against him with some ludicrously talented team mates. The Cavs are facing a Bulls team who flat-out hate them. A team with a couple of fellow Euros, in Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, who have their own motivations for making a big stand this post-season. Mozgov? The scoreboard says if he does his job he’ll be fine. No-one is going to blame the Russian if the Cavs fail to progress. That lack of expectation is what is going to drive him.
We are fortunately past the days where Euros were accused of being soft. We’ve come so far beyond that point that playing to their level is ample. That’s tremendously mature of the sporting public. Fortunately for David Blatt, it seems to be the type of reasoned attitude that turns Mozgov into a beast.
Normally, particularly with a Blatt team, this seems like the type of situation where Mozgov needs to step up and proverbially punch someone in the nose. After Game 4 in Boston, it’s probably best if we don’t use hitting opponents in the face as a simile for anything to do with the Cavs. Let’s not go there.
So what to expect from Mozgov? Better. He’s going to be better and when Mozgov excels it looks raw as hell. In terms of execution, it really isn’t but the nature of the big guy’s game makes him look like he’s about to fall into the seats when he pushes himself to the limit. It’s Timmy time.