|29 July 2013|
|"I'm sincerely sorry I won't be able to help our national team." Timofey Mozgov |
Russia were shocked on Monday to learn that Timofey Mozgov, the player who was poised to be the starting center of the national team at EuroBasket 2013, has decided to not participate in the tournament.
"I'm experiencing mixed feelings right now," the 27-year-old center wrote in a personal column on the sports.ru wesbite.
"I'm happy because there's finally certainty with my future and I'll continue to pay in the NBA.
"But at the same time, I'm sincerely sorry I won't be able to help our national team."
Mozgov's mention of his NBA career future is a reference to the fact that he signed a new three-year deal with the Denver Nuggets at the weekend, when under previous coach George Carl he had received limited playing time last season.
The Russian big man has cited as the main reason for his decision the fact that although he crossed the Atlantic in 2010, to join the New York Knicks, he has never undertaken the NBA's special orientation course for rookies, and he is obliged to follow the program this summer.
The loss of Mozgov is a significant blow to Russia's chance at the EuroBasket and forces them to rethink the composition of their frontcourt, especially since fellow center Sasha Kaun will not be on the plane to Slovenia either.
Kaun, alongside versatile forward Victor Khryapa had announced that they needed to take a break from international duty this summer before the start of preparations, shortly after star Andrei Kirilenko made public his decision to retire from the national team.
Interim Russia head coach Vasily Karasev though remained calm in the wake of Mozgov's decision.
"It's definitely a loss, but nothing tragic has happened," Karasev told agency R-Sport.
"I understand Timofey's reasons and forcing players to come to the national team is wrong."
Karasev also hinted that he might resort to using power forward Andrei Vorontsevich at the '5' spot, in a forced re-shuffling of his frontline.
The coach of BC Triumph stepped in as head coach of the national team provisionally, until the Russian Basketball Federation decides on the successor of Greek tactician Fotis Katsikaris, who quit the post three days before the start of training camp.
Mozgov had averaged 10 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for Russia in last summer's London Olympics, when he shared the center position with Kaun, and had posted 9.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per encounter at EuroBasket 2011, where Kaun was absent.
Russia are pitched in First Round Group D at the EuroBasket and will do battle with Italy, Turkey, Finland, Sweden and Greece.