Cavaliers land center Timofey Mozgov in trade with Nuggets
The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers have found their “real, true center.”
Desperate for a rim-protecting big man, the Cavs acquired center Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night for two first-round draft picks.
The Cavs announced their second major trade in three days during the first half of their game against the Houston Rockets. Cleveland, which has underachieved while enduring a rash of injuries, sent two protected 2015 first-round picks — one acquired in 2013 from Memphis, the other from Oklahoma City this week — to Denver for the 7-foot-1 Mozgov and a 2015 second-round pick.
Mozgov averaged 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in 35 games this season for the Nuggets. The Cavs feel he can fill the large hole they had in the middle after starting center Anderson Varejao was lost for the season with a torn Achilles.
Cavs general manager David Griffin had targeted Mozgov for months and was finally able to land him — at a steep price.
“His numbers don’t have to be flashy,” Griffin said at halftime. “We’ve got three players who are flashy. We need guys to do the dirt work.”
Mozgov played for Cavs coach David Blatt on the Russian national team, and their relationship should make the five-year veteran’s transition a little easier.
The trade for Mozgov was Cleveland’s second significant move this week and came as the team played without superstar LeBron James, sidelined for the past six games with a strained back and knee.
On Monday, the Cavs dealt guard Dion Waiters to the Thunder and acquired guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the Knicks. Smith gives the Cavs a proven scorer off the bench and Shumpert is a strong defender, whom Blatt described as “willing” to take on the opponent’s top scorer.
“We need a guy like that,” he said.
Shumpert is recovering from a dislocated left shoulder and won’t be ready to play for at least two more weeks.
Smith comes with some baggage. While there is no denying his basketball skill, Smith hasn’t always been regarded as a “team” player, but Griffin said the Cavs have no major concerns about him.
“His issues have never been as a teammate,” Griffin said. “J.R. comes to battle, he competes on a consistent basis.”
Last season, Smith was fined $50,000 for untying the shoelaces of three players, including his new Cavaliers teammate Shawn Marion, who felt the incident was blown out of proportion by the media.
“He should have paid half of it (the fine) then,” Smith said, laughing. “That was way overblown. I’ve been doing it so long. It was surprising they caught it that year. It seemed like one thing after another. I’ve been playing against Shawn a long time. It was nothing personal. I didn’t try to hurt guys. It was a joke that got taken too far.”
Smith, who has known James since high school, has no doubts he’ll be able to fit in nicely with the Cavs. It won’t take him long to figure out Blatt’s offense.
“I try to space the floor as much as I can,” Smith said. “When worst come to worst, my motto is, “When in doubt, shoot the ball.’ Hopefully that won’t catch anybody off guard.”
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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