Commentary

Mozgov ready as Clips buzz into town

Recovered from his November facial, Russian center eager to get revenge vs. Blake

Updated: February 9, 2011, 11:01 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Herb Williams has been with the Knicks, as either a player or a coach, for 16 NBA seasons.

Which means he's seen the Los Angeles Clippers come to town 16 times.

And, he says, a visit from the Clippers has never brought any extra buzz to Madison Square Garden.

"No, no. Never," Williams, the Knicks' bench coach, said Tuesday.

But that all changes Wednesday night, when Clippers forward Blake Griffin brings his 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame and 36-inch vertical leap to the World's Most Famous Arena.

"He's really strong. He can run, shoot [and] he can dunk well," Knicks center Timofey Mozgov said.

Mozgov knows better than most.

The last time he saw Griffin, the 22-year-old went all Inspector Gadget on Mozgov, soaring over the Russian rookie's head to throw down one of the season's top dunks.

Mozgov says he was "mad" after Griffin made him look like the NBA version of Frederic Weis.

Making matters worse, Mozgov's friends texted and called the St. Petersburg native with "jokes" after he was immortalized by Griffin.

"I remember; I remember everything," Mozgov said Tuesday. "I didn't like it. But what can I do?"

Timofey Mozgov
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesTimofey Mozgov will start at center when the Knicks host the Clippers on Wednesday.

As Mike D'Antoni pointed out, "it just happened to be Timmy that time [but] it could have been anybody."

In the same game, Griffin put Danilo Gallinari on the wrong end of the highlight reel when he spun across Gallinari and finished with a powerful slam over the 6-10 forward.

Griffin had 44 points and 15 rebounds in the Knicks' 124-115 win in late November.

Mozgov and Amare Stoudemire will match up against Griffin on Wednesday night as Mozgov starts in place of injured center Ronny Turiaf (right ankle). D'Antoni said Tuesday that Mozgov will begin the game guarding Griffin.

"We'll just have to watch for lobs," D'Antoni said.

Mozgov isn't the same, timid 24-year-old he was in late November.

He started the first nine games of the season at center but had fallen out of the starting rotation by the Nov. 20 matchup against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

He suffered through a stretch of 10 straight games on the bench in January before getting an opportunity to play Jan. 30 against the Pistons due to Wilson Chandler's injury and Shawne Williams' suspension.

The 7-1, 250-pounder delivered against Detroit, establishing career highs in points (23), rebounds (14) and minutes (40) in the Knicks' 124-106 win.

He will be starting his second straight game and 11th of the season Wednesday night.

"Now I feel really, really much more confident on the court. I have some time to improve," he said after practice Tuesday. "... Now I am much better I think."

The Knicks will be counting on a big effort from Mozgov, Stoudemire and whomever else they throw at Griffin on Wednesday.

With the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors intensifying by the day, D'Antoni's club has lost nine of its past 13 games and entered play Tuesday night with a three-game edge over the seventh-place Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Knicks face Kobe Bryant and the defending NBA champion Lakers on Friday night, so a win over the Clippers, who will play the back end of back-to-back road games Wednesday, is imperative.

Mozgov knows that.

In fact, he doesn't care how many highlight-reel dunks Griffin delivers at the Garden, as long as the Knicks come out on top.

"Maybe he'll dunk 10 times on me, but if we win this game, it will be great," he said.

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