July 21, 2011
At this point in the NBA lockout, it's become relatively clear that many players that sit near the end of their teams' benches aren't going to wait around for next season and will take decent offers from European clubs. We've seen it several times already, and there will likely only be more cases as the lockout drags on until the end of summer.
For the most part, these players will not be missed much on the court -- they occasionally have good games but are by no means regular contributors. Many, though, are strong personalities that make the league much more interesting to follow. We've already lost Sonny Weems and Sasha Vujacic to foreign teams. Now, you can add young center Timofey Mozgov(notes) to the list. From the official EuroLeague site (via PBT):
BC Khimki Moscow Region brought a familiar face back and announced a new player with the signing of Timofey Mozgov and Chris Quinn(notes) on Thursday. Mozgov (2.16 meters, 25 years old) played four seasons with the club from 2006 through 2010. He averaged 6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 16 Euroleague games as a reserve in his final season with the club, 2009-10. Last season Mozgov played for New York and Denver in the NBA, where he amassed 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds over 45 games. [...]
"I am glad that everything turned out perfectly. I grew up as a player in Khimki and spent great days in here. I have a lot of friends in the team and the adaptation period to the team will not be a problem," Mozgov said. "Khimki is my second home and we quickly reached an agreement. I hope I can help the team in the upcoming season."
Mozgov is obviously comfortable playing for Khimki, so this move looks like something of a no-brainer. He'll be able to develop his game with a guaranteed contract for a club he already knows very well. What's the downside?
Still, NBA fans are going to lose out, because in just one season he proved to be a fascinating figure. In November, he was dunked on by Blake Griffin for perhaps the best slam of the entire season. Over the All-Star break, he got married in Las Vegas at a drive-thru chapel. A few days later, he unexpectedly became the final piece of Carmelo Anthony's(notes) trade to the Knicks. If he'd stuck around the NBA longer, he probably would have wound up starting a Russian novel club with the J.R. Smith(notes).
Hopefully he'll be back when this lockout mess is resolved. If he isn't, we'll have lost a true character.