The Los Angeles Lakers signing Russian center Timofey Mozgov to a four-year deal worth $64 million in the opening hour of free agency certainly raised eyebrows among fans and around the NBA. The commitment is certainly a gamble for Los Angles' front office, but there are reasons to believe it could work out.
Mozgov is an effective screener and productive roll man out of pick-and-roll sets, easily the best the Lakers young guard core of D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson will have ever played with. He's also a good rim protector, and a strong defender when not asked to guard ball handlers in open space.
Those are all reasons the Lakers might have signed Mozgov, and he revealed to Timur Rustamov of Sport Express why he decided to join Los Angeles' rebuilding effort. Other than the Lakers making him a priority and the money, Mozgov shared that he grew up watching the team (this appears to be a translation from Russian to English, so these might not be exact quotes):
He's also a little bummed he missed out on playing with Kobe Bryant by a year:
Moz on not having Kobe around: maybe he puts pressure on you, but anyway it's a shame I don't get to play with one of the all-time greats— Timur Rustamov (@t1m1ch) July 1, 2016
Aside from putting on the purple and gold being a childhood dream come true, Mozgov also made it sound like Lakers head coach Luke Walton's vision for his role was instrumental in the quick agreement between the two parties:
Mozgov on desicion to join @lakers: convo with Walton was key, he loves the things I can do on the court and sees me as his primary center— Timur Rustamov (@t1m1ch) July 1, 2016
As for those who are criticizing the giant pay raise he just got from the Lakers, Mozgov feels he's earned his compensation:
Moz on his salary: I see it as a result of all hard work. Do I feel good abt it? Would u feel good about doing what u love and getting paid?— Timur Rustamov (@t1m1ch) July 1, 2016
The Lakers were always going to have to pay a premium to add talent amidst a cap boom and coming off of a 17-win season. Mozgov does fill needs for the team, and while the contract may have given a lot of people sticker shock, he seems like he wants a chance to show it may not be as massive of an overpay as many expect.
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