Mozgov ready for Nuggets season after eventful summer

Olympic bronze medal, Basketball Without Borders among highlights for Denver center
by Aaron Lopez

The 2012 Timo World Tour was in full swing this summer, making stops in Caracas, London and Moscow before returning to Denver.

In the end, it was immortalized in bronze.

Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov returned to Pepsi Center this week after a productive three months highlighted by an Olympic bronze medal performance and the first Basketball Without Borders event in his native Russia.

“It was a busy summer,” Mozgov said. “A good busy summer.”

Mozgov, who started 35 games for the Nuggets in 2011-12, helped the Russian national team qualify for the 2012 Olympics, and he later played through a lingering ankle injury to average 10 points and 3.4 rebounds in London.

Russia lost to Spain in the Olympic semifinals but defeated Argentina to capture the bronze medal.

“The Olympic games, you (might) go only one time in your life,” Mozgov said. “This was important for us. Even before the game, the people were proud of us in Russia. If we lost to Argentina, people would still love us. But we didn’t want to give it up.

“You practice for three months for the Olympic games. On the court, you play hard because you don’t want to go (home) without a medal.”

Mozgov, who previously played for Russia at the 2010 World Championships and the 2011 European Championships, gave his medal to his parents. His father Pasha displayed it prominently on the wall in the family’s living room.

“All my medals, my father keeps,” Mozgov said. “Some guests come in, he shows them.”

Mozgov was also celebrated outside his immediate family.

While in Moscow for Basketball Without Borders Europe from Sept. 13-16, he posed for countless pictures and was celebrated while driving through the city streets.

“They were loving him,” said Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt, who also was at the BWB camp. “He was a celebrity. One day, we were riding around in his car and people were honking. People were pulling up beside us and waving. From the Olympics, those guys are celebrated. They’re big-time.”

Mozgov was joined at the camp by Olympic teammates Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved, former Nuggets guard Sarunas Marciulonis and current NBA players MarShon Brooks, Brian Cardinal and Danny Green.

In addition to providing basketball instruction for 50 of the top under-17 players from around Europe, Mozgov and other players/coaches visited a children’s home and held separate clinics for Moscow schoolchildren and Russian Special Olympics athletes.

“It was nice, especially for Russian kids,” Mozgov said. “We went into the schools and played with some kids. Most important, these kids look at you and feel (the excitement).”

Hunt witnessed the excitement firsthand.

“At the camp, kids just lit up,” he said. “Kirilenko was at a different level. He’s Michael Jordan. But Timo was Kevin Durant. He was celebrated by the little kids all the way up to adults. It was cool to see how comfortable he was in his own element, and it was cool to see how people recognized him.”

After the camp, Mozgov was able to spend some time with his wife and their 9-month-old son before returning to Denver to prepare for the start of training camp with the Nuggets.
His summer world tour is complete. The 2012-13 NBA tour awaits.

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