The stat line in his first game with the Oklahoma City Thunder were spectacular. But Nazr Mohammed's effect in the middle was Wednesday during a 113-89 win over Indiana.
When Mohammed was picked up in a trade from Charlotte, most fans looked at it as an afterthought. All eyes were on former Celtics Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.
But the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Mohammed has quickly shown what type of asset he can be this year for a team with high aspirations. OKC (38-22) is now 2-0 with him in the starting lineup after picking wins over Indy and Atlanta Friday. They look to go 3-0 at 6 p.m. tonight when they host the Phoenix Suns (32-28).
"He brings solid play," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That's what his career has been. He's been a solid professional for a lot of years. He's smart, He understands his role, he's an offensive rebounder, a solid defender and a better than average midrange shooter."
Wednesday, Mohammed finished with eight points, seven rebounds, one steal and five fouls. But more importantly, he allowed Serge Ibaka to play his normal position of power forward without having to worry about guarding the opposing team's center. Ibaka, tallied six blocks against the Pacers.
In his 12th year out of Kentucky, Mohammed was a first round pick in 1998 by Utah as the 29th pick overall. The Jazz traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a future first round pick.
The Thunder are Mohammed's seventh NBA team. His previous stops include Atlanta, New York, San Antonio, Detroit and Charlotte. His best single season came in 200n-01 when he averaged 12.3 points, nine rebounds and one block per game. For his career he has averaged seven points, five rebounds and less than one block.
With Mohammed, Perkins and Cole Aldrich, the Thunder now have the ability to go big and pound the boards throughout the entire game. But they also can diversify their attack and put a smaller team on the court.
"That's a good challenge a lot of the good teams have," Brooks said. "We can go play big basketball when Perk does get back. And we can play smaller basketball with a quicker lineup with Kevin at the four. It's been interesting to watch. Kevin is a handful at any spot on the floor. But if teams match up with him with their normal four, that good for us. But you have to be able to lay multiple ways. What we have, we can do that."
But it's also Mohammed's disposition that Thunder executives love. They were seeking players who would fit into the team's low-key style and businesslike attitude. So far, Mohammed fits that perfectly.
"He's a likable guy," Brooks said. "He wants to be around. You can tell he gets along with his teammates. You can tell he is a solid, fun guy to be around. He always seem to be in a good mood I think that it's really important that we understand what he brings to our team. It's never an easy transition, but it makes it easier if you have those qualities that he has. He's a smart player. He has plenty of years of good experience and championship experience."