It's too bad Brook Lopez didn't get a chance to play in the Worlds. Thursday's USA vs. Russia game (ESPN, 11 a.m. ET) would have provided an interesting match-up for New York hoops fans.
Lopez would have gone up against Timofey Mozgov, the 7'1" Russian center who signed with the Knicks this summer.
At the time of his signing back in July, Mozgov's contract--$8.1 million over three years with a $3.5 million team option in year four--was seen as a slap at Mikhail Prokhorov. Now, with Mozgov going up against Tyson Chandler, Lamar Odom and Kevin Love, New York fans will get to see if New Jersey missed out on him.
Andrei Kirilenko twice recommended Mozgov as Russia's most likely NBA prospect...both times in the context of what Russian players Prokhorov might sign to play for the Nets. It was no secret. AK-47 Said it once in an interview with Russian paper, once in interview with Salt Lake paper. Kirilenko specifically said he liked the 24-year-old's performance in the FIBA Eurobasket last year.
The Nets apparently weren't interested. Rod Thorn said Mozgov wasn't "on our radar". Even if he had been, Mozgov's agent, Bouna Ndiaye, told the New York Times he never contacted the Nets because he believes the Knicks are further along in rebuilding...and Mozgov told MSG that while he admires Prokhorov, the Nets never contacted him or his agent.
Still, the Post reported the Knicks twice worked Mozgov in secret to make certain the Nets didn't know about their interest, fearful that Prokhorov might move in at the last minute and steal him away.
Mozgov, of course, won't work against Lopez Thursday in a battle no doubt Prokhorov will be interested in. Instead, it will be a big test for the Russian center going against Chandler , Odom and Love. Although he has good hands, surprising athleticism and strength, he's not a great rebounder and his BBIQ is questionable.