For financial reasons, Timofey Mozgov was quietly included in the shocking deal that sent D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma.
With the Lakers, Mozgov and Russell struggled in different ways.
Mozgov averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds over 54 games after signing a shocking four-year, $64 million deal last summer. He completely fell out of Los Angeles’ rotation towards the end of the season and failed to make a positive impact in his only season with LA after celebrating an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers the season before.
Russell averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists over 63 games, but failed to make any significant strides over his rookie season. As a result, he played just 28.7 minutes per game in what was expected to be a breakout season. Additionally, his leadership qualities were questioned throughout his time in Los Angeles.
Now on a new team, both players will have a chance to revitalize their respective careers. Mozgov apparently believes Russell can reach stardom in Brooklyn, where he should be the clear go-to scorer on a rebuilding roster.
“He’s going to score a lot,” Mozgov told Andrey Kartashov of the Russian news agency TASS when asked about D’Angelo Russell. “He’s going to shoot three' a lot because he’s a really, really good shooter. He’s really talented and I hope he’s going to feed me,” the big man continued. Therefore, we should expect to see Russell hoist up a ton of shots in the coming year.
“He’s got a clean slate with us. L.A. is L.A. This is Brooklyn. It’s a different situation, a different scenario,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said at the end of June when the team introduced the two players. “I can see in the press conference there’s been some criticism and some doubts about him. But I think we’re a positive culture, we’re a positive coaching staff, and we’re going to hold him accountable and be honest with him and coach him hard. I think that combination of positive love and then holding him accountable and be honest with him, that’s how young guys get better.”
When asked about whether or not he feels the Nets can shock the world and make the playoffs after going 20-62 last season, Mozgov replied, “I think we can make it, but it’s a long run.”
Mozgov could also be thrust into a major role for the Nets this season. “We can expect Timmy to be a little bit closer to the basket,” Atkinson said in the June press conference. “We’ll put him in that dunker position behind the basket. He’s really good there. He’s good at the elbows. He’s got a nice jumper.”
“Timmy has seen it all. He’s seen organizations in different phases,” Atkinson noted. “The fact that he was around a group that won a championship is so important and played an important role in that, I was picking his brain the other day just asking what that was like and what was the leadership like on that team. We can all learn from it, I can learn from it. I’m going to continue to ask him about that situation.”
Since the Eastern Conference might end up being wide open behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, it will be fascinating to see how the new-look Nets, led in part by Russell and Mozgov, will perform.