The first move that the Los Angeles Lakers made in free agency this past summer was signing center Timofey Mozgov to a $64 million contract. Head coach Luke Walton envisioned Mozgov being the centerpiece of the team’s defense, much in the way Andrew Bogut patrolled the paint while Walton was with the Golden State Warriors.
Though Mozgov’s numbers haven’t stood out, he has made an impact when out on the floor. In his opinion, however, he hasn’t done enough.
According to Mark Medina of the OC Register, Mozgov feels that he needs to be more physical on the court:
“I need to pick it up, be more physical and hit people around,” Mozgov said. “It’s not like killing someone, but being stronger.”
The Lakers’ are near the bottom of the league in both points allowed and defensive rating, but Walton doesn’t believe it’s Mozgov’s fault, noting how Mozgov continually has to help guards getting broken down and no one covers his man. Mozgov, however, doesn’t use that as an excuse:
“I still have to do my job,” Mozgov said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on. We have five guys on the court. We have to pick up each other. It doesn’t matter who breaks. It’s important for guys to know there’s somebody behind his back every time. It’s all about hustle. If you want to be good on defense, you have to want to play defense. You have to take it personal.”
Mozgov has the right mindset. He is committed to defense and improving the team on that end, but that must be a team effort as he just can’t do that on his own. He has done a great job of holding the team accountable when there are constant breakdowns and has been seen chewing out his teammates.
The fact that he isn’t satisfied with his performance is a good thing, and he will continue to push his teammates to improve on that end. His numbers may never justify his contract, but his impact on the court is important and pledging to be more physical should really help the Lakers as a whole.