New opportunity awaits Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov

Offseason changes put Denver big man in line for more minutes
by Aaron Lopez

When Timofey Mozgov walked out of Pepsi Center last spring, there was no telling whether he would return as a member of the Denver Nuggets.

As a free agent who played limited minutes behind centers Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee in 2012-13, his future in Denver was uncertain at best.

In a one-month span, that all changed.

The Nuggets sent Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies in a draft-night trade on June 27 and then secured Mozgov with a multiyear contract on July 27. He is now back in Denver preparing for training camp, which officially opens on Oct. 1.

“I’m excited,” Mozgov said after a workout this week. “It is an opportunity.”

The opportunities were few and far between last season (Mozgov averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in a career-low 41 games), but sweeping changes in the front office and to the coaching staff have presented a fresh start.

First-year general manager/executive vice president of basketball operations Tim Connelly loves Mozgov’s size (7-foot-1, 250-pounds) and athleticism, while first-year coach Brian Shaw has him penciled in as McGee’s backup to start training camp.

Given his experience last season, Mozgov is taking nothing for granted.

“I have to be prepared,” he said. “We changed coaches, so it’s a different situation. We’ll see in practice.”

Unlike last September, Mozgov will open training camp on a full tank. After helping Russia win the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics, Mozgov did not compete for the national team at Eurobasket 2013.

“It was a hard decision to not go to the national team,” he said. “I feel like I needed to skip it because I need a good season. It’s an important season for me. I don’t want to be so tired (from the Olympics) like last season. I was not ready. It was hard (not playing this summer), but it’s what I need. It’s good for my body, good for my mind.”

And that also should be good for the Denver Nuggets.