Mozgov, who had an offseason scope in his right knee in July, is averaging 7.3 points on 44.4 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds through the Cavs’ 3-1 start to the season. It’s a regression from the 10.6 points on 59.0 percent shooting and 6.9 rebounds he averaged last season after Cleveland acquired him from Denver in January through a trade.
Blatt said Mozgov is still working back into shape, including trying to slim down his 7-1, 275-pound frame.
“He’s working real hard, strengthening,” Blatt said before the Cavs’ 107-100 win over Philadelphia on Monday. “He’s dropping a little bit of weight, which is good. That takes pressure off the knee. And getting himself in the kind of shape that he’s going to have to be in as we get further and deeper into the season. But I think he’s feeling better and I think it shows in his play.”
Mozgov certainly improved in one area against the Sixers, swatting a season-high four blocks, but it was counterbalanced by a 2-for-7 shooting line.
“I’m cool,” Mozgov said before the game. “It’s not like I’m super heavy or something. It’s more like we’re off to this great start to the season, but it was not a really pretty summer for me so I need to keep working. I’m late on a lot of things so I just have to pick it up and my body should be right. So I’m just trying to be in better shape. I mean, I’m not like in the worst shape. No. No. But you always want to be better, right? So I’m trying to do that.”
Mozgov is wearing a soft brace on his right knee during games. When asked if he is still experiencing pain, he said simply, “Yup.” When asked if the pain is holding him back, he said, “It still bothers me but I’m OK to play.”
Mozgov’s minutes are also slightly down so far this year, 21.5 rather than the 25.0 he played a season ago. The only way that number will increase is if he gets in better shape. The only way he gets in better shape is if he works out more. But the only way his knees will feel better is if he gives them a chance to rest.
“You got to be smart about workouts. We got a long season,” Mozgov said. “Of course you do work out and some extra work, but sometimes you have to take a rest. Sometimes it’s weight training. It doesn’t have to be the basketball court every time.”
Blatt gave Mozgov a couple preseason games off for rest and said he could do the same thing in the regular season.
“If necessary,” Blatt said. “Because this year, unlike last year, we’ve got six bigs. We didn’t have that last year. So, if necessary. But it’s not something we’re necessarily aiming for.”
That big-man rotation — Mozgov, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, James Jones (playing the stretch 4) and Sasha Kaun — is so robust in fact that the team gave Kaun its blessing to miss the Philadelphia game to be with his wife for the birth of their baby son, Maksim.
“We have a deep team,” Mozgov said. “It’s good for all of us. Any moment somebody can step out if they don’t feel right, if they got some injury or something, we have people to step up and it’s perfect.”