The Brooklyn Nets have won on the road against the Lakers – 108-102 last night. It was Andrei Kirilenko’s 25th game with his new team and the first one he started. Right after the game Kirilenko talked with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express.
Here’s my quick translation:
When did you learn that you would be put into the starting five against the Lakers?
During the team meeting in the morning.
What was your reaction?
(Laughs) Didn’t I ever start?
On the Brooklyn Nets, never.
Today there were reasons for this. First, Shaun Livingston got a minor injury. Second, we missed Kevin Garnett who doesn’t play in second games of back-to-backs.
You, on the other hand, have played too much in these last two games, setting season highs. First, 32 minutes against Golden State, then, less than a day later – almost 35 and a half against the Lakers. Isn’t it hard?
No. I felt myself even better during the second game, felt being at 100 percent – just the way I should. This is why I was running and jumping around. Didn’t make all my shots though (laughs). In previous games, it was like playing half the norm.
Another season-high – 10 rebounds, and so a double-double.
This season I completely stopped paying attention to my stats. It doesn’t make any sense when you play much less than you used to. But on the other hand, it’s a new club and there are new goals. This is why stats don’t mean anything for me.
And still, four steals (third personal best of the tournament) – does it mean that Kirilenko is back in his top shape? Do you agree?
(Laughs). But I had three of those right in the beginning of the game, it the first quarter.
But the last one happened in the decisive moment, when you led by eight with a minute to go. It looked like that was a key moment.
It’s possible. Though right after that I lost the ball – thew a pass to Joe Johnson across the defense for some reason, even though I know one should never do it.
You made just two of your six free-throw attempts, it was the only down point of this game. Why didn’t they go in?
I don’t know. And I don’t understand why.
Last question. Right now Brooklyn is on its longest road trip that spans seven games. How hard is it to play so many games on the road in a row?
It’s not easy. And it’s very good that we won two of our last three games. Especially since we are facing Portland and Denver next – these teams play very well at home.
Shocked just like everybody else by Kirilenko’s decision to pick the Brooklyn Nets and terms of the deal, I couldn’t wait for comments from the player himself. After the deal was officially announced, Kirilenko eagerly talked with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express.
Here is my translation:
A couple weeks ago, after you didn’t pick up your contract option with Minnesota to stay there for another season, you said that you wanted to sign a multi-year deal with one of the clubs. But your contract with Brooklyn is the same, “1 + 1″. Why?
I had a lot of thoughts about the contract length. I talked to my wife and my kids. And I came to a conclusion that I didn’t know what I was chasing. Because, I got a unique chance to play for a team that is a real title contender. To step on the court with stars like Pierce and Garnett – one can only dream about it! This is a chance to join a crusade. This is the first time in my 12 seasons in the NBA that I will be playing for a team which is now one of the main title contenders.
And still, you walked away from 10 millions for one season in Minnesota and agreed to just 3 millions for the same amount of time in Brooklyn!
The financial part of the question really was important. We have discussed it too, for a long time. And we came to a conclusion that you can’t make all the money in the world. And in the NBA, if you want to achieve a serious goal, sometimes you have to sacrifice something.
Just one day ago it was in the news that San Antonio wanted to acquire you. That is a 2013 NBA finalist, by the way. And there was a different sum of money mentioned there – 8 millions per season. Why didn’t it suit you?
I am grateful for all the teams that were interested in signing me. There were plenty of them – believe me, I had options to choose from.
Did you consider staying in Minnesota?
A year ago I was planning a completely different scenario. I thought I would stay in Minnesota for the rest of my career. But these are the NBA realities: things often don’t go the way you expect them to. The previous general manager has left the team, and the situation turned 180 degrees. I don’t blame anyone that it happened. It’s just that other general manager decided to place his bet on other players. All that said, I stick to my opinion that Rick Adelman is one of the best coaches in the league. And the chemistry within the team was amazing. But it just happened that the team went for a younger roster. So all that I can do now is root for Minnesota, just like I do for another team that I played for, Utah. I have left a part of my soul and my heart in those teams.
And still, why Brooklyn?
Of course it was an option for quite some time – from the moment Mikhail Prokhorov became the owner. What really influenced my decision now was the trade with Boston. It’s obvious that it has been done in order to make a serious run at winning an NBA title.
Can you call it the deciding factor?
Yes. In addition to that, I am joining a strong team like that not as a veteran who is only able to play for five minutes, but as a player who is capable of helping the team. There’s a competitive fire, the motivation. It is really hard to constantly find a motivation when you are playing for a team that doesn’t make the playoffs. I know that it’s not going to be easy in Brooklyn. But at the same time, it is really interesting to see what this project will become. To see how several players of this caliber will manage to fit together.
How important it is that Prokhorov is the Nets’ owner?
Of course it is one of the main pluses for me. I know him for a long time, going back to the period when I was playing for CSKA before I first moved to the NBA. You can’t say that we are friends. But we have a good relationship and we support each other. It is great that our guy, a Russian, is so interested in basketball. When he became the Nets’ owner it created a platform – thanks to that, NBA scouts are paying closer attention to Russian players now.
A move to Brooklyn for you is also a reunion with Deron Williams who you played with in Utah for a few seasons.
I talked to him on Thursday and he was persuading me to join the Nets. Williams is one of the best point guards in the NBA, and now he has to organize a team which is stacked at every position. This is no joke when a single team has seven or eight players who know how to play quality basketball.
Another former teammate of yours could have joined Brooklyn – Kyle Korver. But as it became known today, he decided to stay in Atlanta.
It’s a pity, of course. That would have been great! I love Kyle and respect him – as a good teammate, as a player. I still have fond memories of those times in Utah – Memo, Boozer, Deron, Korver, Millsap. Nostalgic! By the way, family question has also influenced my decision: it is great for my kids to reunite with Deron’s kids – they used to be friends. All in all, there is a set of small but warm and good moments that influenced the decision. I think I want to live in New York for a bit. During all my time in the NBA my family has never lived in a big American city. And it is also interesting for me to try and play in one.
Is it interesting to play for Jason Kidd, a coach who was a player himself just a couple months ago?
I have already talked to him. I congratulated him on his appointment. But I called him ‘coach’ and he replied, ‘I still can’t get used to it’. I think it is even a bigger challenge for him than for any of the players. But he is lucky to have a roster like this – he will have to coach players that almost don’t require to be coached! Just look, the current roster has more than 100 years of NBA experience combined! Many players have a career longer than 10 seasons. It will be very easy to explain something to players like that.
Still, doesn’t it bother you that the team is led by a rookie coach?
It is hard for me to evaluate Kidd – I didn’t have a single practice with his team. I only know him as a fantastic point guard. Probably one of the five best in NBA history. It also adds confidence that former point guards do great. Doc Rivers became an NBA champion with Boston, Avery Johnson made NBA Finals with Dallas and Golden State improved rapidly when Mark Jackson arrived.
How well do you know Kidd?
We have known each other for a long time, but we never really communicated on a personal level. Just said ‘hi’ and ‘bye’. We have been meeting since my early NBA seasons when he was a Nets player himself. I remember the way he played for each of his teams, probably other than Phoenix where he started his career.
Doesn’t a company so full of stars scare you?
You can’t scare me with that – I have met each of them on the court many times. Take Garnett, we know each other well for a very long time. By the way, he is the guy who taught me how to play dice – American rules, everything. It happened a long time ago, back in 2006. We were getting ready for the season together in Las Vegas, and on one of the days Kevin, along with Chauncey Billups, has taught me all the nuances.
At the same time you should understand that on a team which is so full of star players, where Paul Pierce is playing at your position, you will almost certainly have to come off the bench.
Well this can’t possibly scare me, that’s for sure! This is my philosophy: it is absolutely not important where you start the game – on the court or on the bench. It is much more important to be as effective as possible during the game. We have touched upon this topic with Kidd. He said I shouldn’t be worried – in any case, I will be playing. Brooklyn has become a veteran team, and extended rotation during games is inevitable. So there should be no problem regarding playing time. Though I don’t try to get inside a coach’s mind. Having played in the NBA for so many seasons, I know it perfectly how to keep myself in shape. And sometimes you can be more useful coming off the bench. Personally, I am confident that I will get enough playing time. And why even bring me on the team if it isn’t so?
I have a feeling that Brooklyn will be very similar to last year’s New York – which also had a lot of veterans who played great during the regular season but didn’t have much success in the playoffs.
I don’t agree. I think it makes more sense to make a comparison with the Lakers. But Brooklyn has a much more balanced roster. Los Angeles didn’t have a deep bench like this – basically it was just four superstars. In the end, all Lakers managed to do is reach the playoffs.
From the moment your agreement with Brooklyn became known, it fueled gossip. First, the fans on the internet commented that Kirilenko had agreed to take a pay cut because Prokhorov would make up for it in Russia. And then a few NBA general managers voiced their unhappiness and asked the league’s office to start an investigation regarding possible under-the-table deal between Russian player and owner. What would you say about these accusations?
Just one thing: it is laughable. It is strictly forbidden by the NBA rules, and the league’s office keeps the situation under great control. It is silly not just to talk about it – even to think of it. Masha and I have argued what is better: to go after more money or play where you want and to try and reach a serious goal. In my career, I have made a decent sum of money. Indecent even. (Laughs). And to not use a chance that the Nets provide would not be right. The times when I could have a desire to make as much as possible have passed. By the way, our family debates were quire serious. But after weighing on everything it became clear: the sum of the factors made Brooklyn a clear winner.
Kirilenko often said that he doesn’t just make decisions alone, and his wife Masha is always involved in a major way – which provoked criticizm, fair or unfair, from Russian fans whenever AK-47 missed an international tournament. So it is easy to see that, after pay cut became inevitable, Kirilenko had to sell Masha on the place where the family could move, and the Nets could offer the most.
Kirilenko himself considered the Brooklyn option from the very beginning, when there was still chance of getting big money offers and it was a long shot.
Follow me on twitter for Kirilenko updates.
Someday I will have to learn how to pull quotes from a text in order make it a quicker blog post, but this Andrei Kirilenko’s interview by Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express was so good that I ended up translating the whole thing once again.
Here it goes:
- It felt like you liked everything in Minnesota. Then why didn’t you pick up your contract option for the next season?
- It didn’t make sense to me. Next year the situation would be the same, and it is uncomfortable for me and my entire family to feel this uncertainty. For all my close ones to keep on thinking, “Do we have to relocate after the season ends?”. So it was a strategic decision. I want to sign a longer contract. And it doesn’t mean that I’m definitely leaving Minnesota – at all. A really do like everything here. Everything but the length of my contract.
– How long do you want it to be? Three or four seasons?
- (Laughs). I prefer it to be for more than one. I am sure that I’ll be able to play at high level for at least three more seasons. After that, maybe I will have to consider signing for a veteran minimum. But it is impossible to say what is going to happen after three years. After all, I used to think that I would retire at 30. But right now I’m already 32, and I am still full of energy and desire to play.
- Does your decision have anything to do with the desire to play for a better team which is a title contender, unlike Minnesota?
- Of course it is always better to play for a good team. But for me, the atmosphere inside a club has a great importance. The team environment in Minnesota is remarkable. I am really lucky in terms of this. And the current roster, I am sure, can do much better than last season when we lost our chances of making the playoffs early.
- When was the first time that you thought that maybe you shouldn’t pick up your option with Minnesota?
- Not that long ago. And anyway it’s just part of the process. They way media presented it is just laughable – as if I terminated my contract with the club and left! It is nothing like that. It was never in my plans to move back and forth between cities. On the contrary, right now I am extremely interested in a more stable situation. That was the reason for my decision. After all, my kids are going to enter school, and it is better to plan things like this beforehand.
- So your priority is to sign a multi-year deal with Minnesota?
- Not exactly like this. To tell the truth, I don’t want to fill my head with all this right now – I’m on vacation. My agent Marc Fleisher takes care of all my business. We are working together for 15 years already and never had any trouble with each other. Normally Marc would collect all the necessary information and present the possible moves to me. Right now I can only tell this – I am still a Minnesota player. I like everything about the club – the city, the teammates, and the organization. The only disappointing thing is last season’s result.
– Did Fleisher already tell you of any opportunities?
- No. It is only possible to start the negotiations on July 1. And the player market opens only July 10th.
- Do you think there is a chance for your comeback to CSKA?
- It is 99 percent that I stay in the NBA. But who knows what may happen. What if none of the 30 NBA teams needs me?
– What would you prefer: a multi-year deal with Minnesota for 10 million per, or with Miami but for twice less the money?
- I don’t want to put myself into some limits. And anyway, does it make any sense to join a team where LeBron James is playing at your position? Or to Oklahoma where there is Kevin Durant? It will almost certainly mean that you are just quietly finishing your career. And I feel myself capable of really being productive.
- And what would you say about Brooklyn which is owned by Mikhail Prokhorov and is bringing in superstars like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce?
- I am really happy to see this trade, I hope it happens. Then both sides benefit. Brooklyn gets the players who can get them to the very top, and Boston is working for its future.
For me, a lot of opportunities are attractive. There are 30 almost equally strong teams in the NBA. Well, maybe there are 10 where I wouldn’t like to play. And it is very difficult to choose between 20 other teams. Somewhere there is a great roster, another team is located in a great city, the third one has a super-coach, fourth is a brilliant organization. And so on.
Still, my chances of joining Brooklyn are minimal. The roster is almost complete. Though… Anything is possible in the NBA.
And anyway, I am going to root for all the teams that have something to do with Russians – Minnesota, Denver, Cleveland, and Brooklyn. Well, and for Utah – just like I always used to. (Laughs).
– You have mentioned Cleveland which has picked Sergey Karasev 19th in the Draft. What is his future like in the NBA?
- It is really difficult for me to see Serega as a player. I know him ever since he was seven, when I used to bring him to CSKA practices. For me he is a son of an older friend (Vasily Karasev – Sport-Express). And I am really happy for him. I can only wish success for him and a move to the NBA as soon as possible. So that he could become the best Russian who has ever played in this league.
In general, I really want our compatriots to gradually take the leading roles on their NBA teams. And I am always willing to do whatever I can to help my compatriots. It will be better if Karasev moves to the States this summer and doesn’t stay in Russia for another season or two. He has already passed that stage and needs another mountain to climb now.
- But after you were drafted, you still stayed to play another two seasons with CSKA. Why?
- I was in a different situation. I was under contract, exactly for two years. If not for that, I would have moved to Utah right away.
– Any other advice you may give to Karasev Jr.?
- He has vast opportunities in front of him. But one should always remember: in American basketball, any incredible things are possible. Nobody knows how a given player’s career will unfold. Remember a guy like Kwame Brown? He was absolutely best at student level, but didn’t become a star in the NBA. Or another example, Kevin Martin. A player who few people knew emerged as a completely different player in Sacramento.
- When do you plan to decide about your future?
- I have nowhere to hurry. Last year there were Olympics. Because of that I didn’t want any speculation and I signed my contract rather quick. And this time I am training individually. I plan on sending my son to a sports camp. And I plan to spend some time there myself. I will resume my full practices in early August.
– And still? You didn’t answer the question.
- I will decide about my future between July 10 and September 29. The sooner it happens, the better. So that I would know it for sure what to do and where to relocate – if I have to, of course. But not everything depends on me. So, it doesn’t make sense to be guessing.
Of course I will be following Andrei Kirilenko’s free agency closely. Follow me on Twitter to receive future updates.
After the trade deadline has passed without any news, Timofey Mozgov was interviewed via phone by the Sport-Express journalist Alexey Bezyazychnyi.
Here goes my quick translation of the whole thing (minus the questions about the national team).
- Of course I badly want to play. From this perspective, a trade was supposed to happen. It would be good both for me and the club, because my contract expires in summer, which means I will be able to leave Denver without any compensation. I don’t know what was on our management’s mind when they decided not to trade me. But if it happened, it means that there were some major reasons for that. NBA is a serious business, where nothing is being done without a reason. I hope I will get an opportunity to show what I can do this season. Otherwise, why keep me on the team?
- It was reported that Miami and Minnesota have contacted the Nuggets about you. Did it really happen?
- Yes, my agent told me about it. And I would go to Miami or Minneapolis gladly. On one condition only – that they would let me play. That the Heat are the main title contender this season didn’t matter to me at all. I am not going to sit on the bench even for a champion’s ring. To me, playing time is more important right now than any team results.
- In terms of team results Denver is doing well: the team is among the playoff eight and is battling for the home court advantage.
- We are really playing well. And to some extent it’s a reason for optimism, because exactly during the playoffs last season George Karl has put me into the starting lineup, even though during the regular season he played me almost as little as he does now. What if history repeats itself? You can expect anything from Karl, as I have already learned multiple times. So I try not to get disappointed because of coaching decisions. If it depended on me, then it would be another thing. Then it would make sense to analyze what I am doing wrong. But in my case, there’s no such correlation. I have to just work and wait.
- How did you spend the All-Star Weekend, during which you could have been traded?
- I didn’t watch the broadcasts from Houston, not even the Rookie game where Lyosha Shved played. My wife has dreamt to visit Los Angeles for a long time, so we used these few days to fill this gap. We spent a great vacation, visited Beverley Hills, met the family of Yaroslav Korolev that lives in California. I should admit that I liked it in Los Angeles.
- Would you be glad if you learned that you don’t have to leave Los Angeles, because you have been traded from Denver to the Lakers?
- (Pauses to think about it). It’s hard to say. To sit on the bench behind the backs of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol just because this is a great club and Los Angeles is a nice city – I don’t want it. If I was 35 years old, maybe I would think differently. But I am only 26, and I want to play.
- If Denver doesn’t provide this opportunity until the end of the season, will you stay in the NBA or move to Europe as a free agent in summer?
- You can’t rule out anything. But right now my priority is the NBA. According to my agent, there are two or three clubs in this league that are willing to sign me during offseason. We will consider everything and make a decision.
- What’s left is to just wish you to adjust to the demands of George Karl eventually.
- Thank you. I can’t wait myself for the moment he remembers that I’m there. Especially since the season looks promising for the Nuggets. Last season when we pushed the first-round series to seven games, it was perceived as sensation. Now, even if we make it to the Conference Finals, nobody will be surprised.
Too bad that Moz doesn’t get any minutes lately. It is hard for him, because he is a rare super-tall player who wasn’t just pushed into playing basketball, but actually loves to play. We’ll see what the free agency brings him an opportunity to get some playing time, well deserved on effort alone.
Follow me on Twitter to get Mozgov updates and more.
Alexey Shved talks braces, beer, missing his hair, Iverson as genius, and wearing his pajamas to practice
Here’s my traslation of Alexey Shved’s recent interview at Sports.ru:
- Don’t you get bored here, having moved from Moscow? Minneapolis is such a quiet city.
- Actually, I already got used to everything. I feel comfortable, I like it here… I had my good share of fun in the past, so I can be leading a quiet life now. Of course I knew that people like basketball here, but I couldn’t imagine to what extent… It’s even hard to explain, how good it feels to be playing here. Fans would approach you, ask for a photo, they talk in a nice manner. Here, there are no people who would annoy you and ask some nonsense questions. Everyone is good and nice.
- Are there any rituals for welcoming the rookies?
- It depends on a team. We don’t have such a ritual. They only gave me a pink rucksack; it’s lying in my car. Some of the guys had toy baby strollers next to their lockers. All in all, we have a young team. Kirya is the main veteran. So everyone makes jokes on everyone and there’s no rookie hazing. Once, I went to the practice wearing my pajamas. I was warm outside; I just put on my pajama pants and went to the gym. Everybody was laughing and saying it was cool.
- How’s your English?
- Well, I started learning it while in school. I didn’t take any lessons here. I just talk, and also ask Andrei about some of the words that I don’t know. My brother came here, he gives me tips too. I can already watch movies. I don’t know yet how to say everything I want, but I understand almost everything and people are starting to understand me too.
- Did you get a nickname in the States?
- They call me Alexy*, we’ve taught some of the Americans how to pronounce Aleshka. They also call me Slim, like Slim Shady.
- You are a fan of The Simpsons and of Homer Simpson in particular. What in America made you recall some of the scenes from the cartoon?
- Well, that everybody loves donuts here, and I eat them too. People mostly drink beer and not stronger drinks, exactly like in The Simpsons.
- Why did you decide to cut your hair only in America, even though in CSKA you ignored whenever someone even hinted about it?
- I wanted to change something. And now I already miss my hair. I don’t care what people on the outside advice me to do. I only listen to my relatives and those who are close, and they would always explain it to me about what I should do. If I want it, I will grow my hair again. It doesn’t make me play worse.
- Who is visiting you in Minneapolis?
- Right now everybody has already left. But there were: parents, sisters and their husbands, one of the nephews, the youngest one. We have a big house, so everybody fit in. My mom came and made a lot of pelmeni. Now we ran out of them, so my girlfriend will be making it. She is cooking all the time, and does it very well. Russian cuisine, Italian, Spanish… Anything!
- Are there any restrictions set by the club concerning food and alcohol?
- Nothing special. If you want to drink some beer, nobody will be against it. What’s important is to know your measure and to do well in practice.
- What if one comes to practice when hung over?
- Such thing didn’t happen yet.
- Do you do everything the right way while driving too?
- I was taking a test here to get an American driving license. I didn’t pass it on the first try, because it’s really strict. If you forget to use the turn light – that’s it, you failed the test. Probably I got used to driving here by now. They don’t stop you here unless you violate the driving rules, and I was never pulled over. If I go to Moscow now, I’ll be in a state of shock for the first few days.
- What’s your favorite car?
- BMW X5 and X6. I have bought an X5 here right when I arrived. It’s really cool to drive here, with no traffic jams. It takes me five minutes to drive to the gym. If told to be there at 12-30, I leave the house at 12-20 and I’m never late.
- You are working under the great coach Rick Adelman now. What is your biggest impression?
- He is a very calm person. He will not shout at you, but instead will explain everything calmly, you will understand and you will want it yourself to make everything right the next time. He trusts completely, and it concerns not only me, but many other players too.
- Do you have any kind of field goal attempt limit set by the coach?
- It works differently here: you miss, but everyone will tell you, “Shoot it!” If you are open – shoot it. And you shouldn’t think that you have missed five times before that – you can take another five shots.
- How do the local journalists treat you?
- In the NBA, even if you didn’t do something right, people would try to support you – both the journalists and the fans. Nobody has ever said anything bad to me, even after an off game.
- Are you going to protect your foot after the ankle sprain?
- I will be taping it for the remainder of the season, and then stop, because I can’t play like this – I need my foot to feel free, and it is impossible when wearing high shoes and a tape.
- You wear braces – did you make a special mouthpiece because of it?
- I don’t wear a mouthpiece at all. Three times in my career I took a very strong shot in the teeth, but I can’t wear a mouthpiece – it makes it difficult to breathe. And I’m taking my brackets off in three months. After the three years that I’ve been wearing it, I just can’t wait.
- You said that your idol was Allen Iverson, an anti-basketball player as a lot of people think, one who would only play for himself. Did your taste change with age or not?
- Allen Iverson is a genius. Yes, he didn’t get his ring, but he was able to outplay the entire opponent’s team. I think he is the most skilled NBA player of all time.
- How do rank yourself in the league? Well, at least among the rookies?
- I think that I play not worse than the people who were drafted this year. And then, I’m older – I’m not 20 but 24 already.
- What do you need to improve to have a successful NBA career?
- Everything! I will work on my physical condition and on skills too. So that just no one could steal the ball from me.
Since Shved brought it up himself, his first name sounds more like like “alec-SAY” than “a-LE-xy” as he’s normally called now in America. Listen:
A few days ago Alexey Shved was interviewed by Anton Solomin for Championat.com.
Here’s my translation:
- It looks like you are immune to the magic of Madison Square Garden, which would normally put pressure on the Knicks’ opponents.
- Nothing really put any pressure on me. But the fans there impressed – they are very loud, and many celebrities go to games too. The city itself resembles Moscow. Lots of lights, same traffic jams… They were even there on Sunday when we played the Knicks.…
- Does Rick Adelman instruct you personally during practices, considering that you are the only rookie on the team?
- Well, he talks to everyone. Actually, our coaching staff is really big and everybody gives some pieces of advice. I try to follow everything they say, because they wouldn’t recommend anything bad. It’s important that there are many former NBA players among the coaches and they know perfectly what they are talking about.
- And your sports boldness which shows itself during last seconds of the games – did you get it from them?
- Well, I’ve always been bold. Maybe that is the reason why there were some people who didn’t want me to play. (laughs). Why should I always do something for the others? Of course, you need to listen to your coach when he explains something during a timeout. But at the same time you need to feel the moment when you need to take initiative. Because there are moments which you cannot predict and draw on a tablet. So, sometimes you have to take the lead. Of course you can make the shot or you can miss. But if you don’t take the risk then you will just make some little passes for the rest of your career.
Later Shved took the decisive shot at the buzzer against the Houston Rockets and missed.
- By the way, you are doing great when it comes to assists. Recently you had your first NBA double-double of 12 points and 12 assists, and just three rebounds short of a triple-double. Didn’t teammates ask for a celebration?
- No, it’s not Russia where you have a double-double and, let’s go party! (laughs).
- Are you going to celebrate Christmas with the rest of America?
- Actually the Christmas spirit is really felt here during the last few days. It’s really nice, the whole city is lit up, and there are many Christmas trees and Santas in the streets… But for me the New Year still remains the main holiday, so we will celebrate that.
- It’s good that game schedule makes it possible to see the New Year in at midnight at home with your family. But you have a road game on January 2nd in Salt Lake City, so you need to travel. Will there be enough time for a good sleep?
- The lifestyle here is calmer than in Moscow. The restaurants close at 11 or 12 PM, the night clubs – no later that at 2 AM. So in any case you are able to wake up at 11 fully rested. In general, after living in Russian capital, I really like Minneapolis. It’s small and cozy and there is almost no traffic jams. Of course, you can have a lot of fun in Moscow, but the city is too big.
- Does it mean that if you could choose between Minnesota and New York, you would still pick your current team, taking the city into consideration too?
- What was the most memorable New Year celebration that you had?
- It was two or three years ago. We just fell asleep at 1 AM – how do you like that for a celebration? We had plans to go out and our friends have been waiting for us… And I don’t really understand how it happened, but we just came back home and passed out. We woke up at 10 AM, looked at each other and said, “Yeah, it was so much fun”.
- What was the best present that you remember?
- We have a tradition to prepare a lot of New Year gifts. To our parents, relatives, my girlfriend’s parents… Respectively, they give a lot of presents to us. Each year it’s such a pile of presents that it’s hard to pick out just one thing. But in general, the most important thing for me is not the price but how useful the thing is. For example, my girlfriend can give, say, a pair of grey pants which I didn’t have, and to me it’s better than any most expensive present.
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Here’s my translation of part of Andrei Kirilenko’s recent interview with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express.
- Are the games against LeBron special for you?
- They are different. After all, it doesn’t happen every day that you get to face the best basketball player in the world. So each of these games… No, it is not a challenge, but a mini-duel, without any doubt. It is always interesting for me to guard LeBron, because he is a really smart player, who knows not only how to score, but also how to do everything else: rebound, pass, steal the ball. There, he has blocked four of our shots in this game.
- You really have the right to compare, so, is James the best basketball player in the world right now?
- If I say yes, then a lot of people will make noise arguing that it is Durant or Bryant. So I’ll only speak of my own perception. First, the results speak in his favor: Miami has won the title last season. Second, I really sympathize with him because of his versatile brand of basketball that he plays. But what’s probably most important, he is a basketball player who, by playing great, makes his teammates play better too. Regarding this, nobody comes close to him.
The most interesting thing happens when you manage to meet eyes with him. Then sometimes you can tell what he is going to do. But right away you realize that he has already guessed your plans and is going do something else now. That’s the telepathic connection we establish. Who outwits who. Sometimes he does, sometimes I do.
- And what do you need to do to stop him?
- (Laughing) It is easy to say but much harder to do. You need to deny him the ball as much as possible. You should make him take shots from the distance. When James is driving to the hoop, he is extremely dangerous and is literally impossible to stop. Yes, he shoots better from the distance now, but it is still less dangerous than his drives. And, of course, you need to make him go left. It doesn’t lessen the degree of danger, but it is less comfortable for him this way. Today we managed to hold him back for most of the game.
- You managed, in the first place. And then you have successfully moved to guarding Wade, who Shved couldn’t do anything against in the first half, and then Wade scored almost nothing against you.
- Wade scored enough already. It is extremely difficult to guard when the opponents have two super scorers like that. You can, of course, start beating yourself on the chest and shout, “I have stopped LeBron and Wade today!” But it is definitely not so. Yes, this game was rather good for me personally in terms of defense. And I did defend for a few possessions against both James and Wade. But the end result does not speak in my favor.
Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express has interviewed Andrei Kirilenko on the phone after the game against Cavaliers, during which Kirilenko had eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks.
Here’s my translation:
- Does the back bother you anymore?
- Everything’s all right. I played today, after all, so this means my back is alright. But physically it was hard, yes. When you get out of game rhythm for a week and a half, it takes its toll.
- So you got a bit out of shape over this time?
- It’s not exactly like that. I just need to get into game rhythm once again. Today I just got winded after the first few minutes. Though after that I went back to normal.
- After your first game against Sacramento you said you were about to miss three or four days. But the rehab took 10 days. Why did it happen?
- Actually I always rehab for about eight to ten days when my back starts bothering me. If you let it slide a bit, then it takes no less than two weeks. So I rehabbed according to my normal schedule.
- Are you content with what you were able to do during your first game back?
- The team won, which means I’m content. Also, it was a fun game. I personally played well, though I could have been more active on offense. But, on the other hand, during this exact game it wasn’t needed.
- Don’t be so modest – you’ve been quite active. It was your first attempt at a five-by-five this season.
- I was surprised by only one thing – I thought I had more steals than four.
- Actually there were five listed in the boxscore, but after a few minutes since the buzzer they took away one.
- [Laughing] And I have counted about seven! Though it’s not important by now, anyway – I didn’t get enough blocks. Actually, coming back from the injury it’s very important to be very active, sometimes to even do extra. So I tried to be everywhere.
- Nobody had a five-by-five since January 2006 in the NBA. Is it something that you are capable of?
- Now it’s more difficult to block shots. During my first few seasons in the NBA it was easier. Now everybody knows it perfectly what I’m able to do, so they don’t drive straight to the hoop. More often they would just fake a shot or make a pass.
- Your whole career you were saying that team results are much more important than individual accomplishments. But still, what does five-by-five mean to you?
- It’s a nice thing, but not more than that. And it’s nice from the perspective that you make a lot of useful actions on the court. What it means, you took the ball away from the opponent no less than ten times. And, you helped to organize five or ten scoring plays.
- Your came back and Kevin Love had his best game of the season so far. Is that a coincidence?
- Absolutely. It’s just that Kevin can’t have many bad games. Today he started well from the very first minutes, and having caught that wave he played the whole game great.
- This season, all of Minnesota games have been close. But during the two of the last three – against Philadelphia and Cleveland – you managed to avoid a close ending. Can you say that the team gained experience, got better teamwork, became better?
- We are playing better with each other now. And when facing teams that aren’t among the best, we need to dominate. These two games prove that. Though we still had a slump in the second quarter when we let Cleveland tie the game. Other than that we pressured them all the time.
- What do Timberwolves lack right now? Or maybe someone? Ricky Rubio?
- Of course things will get easier when he returns. Ricky can keep the high tempo of the game. Right now Minnesota is playing well, but we miss the quick passes which shred the defense. Sometimes we have this problem: we get into set offense, make the first pass – to that same Kevin, for example, and then just start waiting. But when you have the ball, you need to pass it to each other quickly, make the opponents move, creating more opportunities for the shots. Rubio will help us greatly in this area. His playing style is similar to Shved‘s, but he’s more pass-oriented. Though Alexey can make a timely pass too.
- Rubio is already practicing with the team. When do you expect his comeback?
- As I heard, it should happen no earlier than mid-December. I think in about seven or ten days. Ricky is already in good playing shape. But then it takes some extra time for him to get comfortable playing with new teammates.
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Vladimir Mozhaitsev of Sport Express has called Alexey Shved and interviewed him for the newspaper issue that was out on September 7.
Here goes the translation:
Admit it, the bronze medal game against Argentina, when you scored 25 points and made the decisive three-pointer – it was your best game with the national team so far?
I shouldn’t judge. I’m not separating my success from the team’s. Just trying to do my best in every game, to use every moment to the maximum.
In the bronze medal game you have made six three-pointers, but were just 3 for 18 during the previous two playoff games. Why did it happen?
Sometimes it happens. And there’s no use in looking for redeeming factors, something like we moved to another arena. I was doing the same things as always, it’s just that ball wouldn’t go through the rim. But at the same time I tried to make up for my misses by contributing in other areas – dished the ball, battled for the rebounds, was aggressive on defense.
Do you have any superstitions, which help you predict a good or bad shooting night?
Frankly, I do. But I will not tell you, or they will stop working.
By now, when a month has passed since the Olympics – did it sink in what a historic success for Russia those bronze medals were?
Of course it’s great that we managed to get to the podium for the first time in Russian history. Relatives, friends and acquaintances are still congratulating me on that. But life goes on. I hope the national team will have other great victories, and right now it’s time to get ready for the next season.
A season that will be special for you, since you are making an NBA debut. How are you going to prepare for it?
After the Olympics I was mostly having rest. I went to France. Right now I’m in Belgorod with my relatives. I’m going to America in about two weeks.
Are you going to share a flight with Andrei Kirilenko, your teammate?
I think it’s probably going to be different flights.
Did Kirilenko give you any pieces of advice, as an older friend and the most experienced player on Minnesota’s roster – how to make a faster transition to the NBA, in terms of basketball and way of life?
During the Olympics we have mostly talked about other things. While there, we were mostly worried about the national team. I’m sure that Andrei and I are going to have enough time to talk about the NBA in future.
How would you describe Minnesota’s playing style?
We have a very young team. I think we are going to play fast and exciting basketball.
And what can your say about your competitors at guard positions – Rubio, Barea, Roy, Ridnour?
They are great players. Anyway, I need to focus on showing my best skills in the first place.
Did you talk with head coach Rick Adelman about your role on the team?
Not yet. We will talk when I get to the US.
When you visited Minneapolis in summer, before the Olympics, did you manage to see the city?
Yes, and I’ve liked everything a lot. But I didn’t do anything about my place yet; I will get to it when I arrive. I will go to the US with my brother, who speaks English perfectly, and he is going to help me make myself at home there.
Don’t you plan to work on your English too?
In general, I speak all right. I can do interviews without any problems. But, of course, I need to improve.
Do you already which jersey number you’ll wear?
Yes, number one.
Alexey Shved has revealed the actual reason for his move to Minnesota: he picked the team out fear of competition.
As Timberwolves’ new guard was answering post-game questions in London, Sergey Karasev, who Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress called the ‘only NBA draft prospect at Olympics’, interrupted his video interview.
Karasev asked if it was the right decision to sign with Minnesota.
Shved didn’t hesitate.
‘Actually, a really regret that I didn’t sign with Triumph. But Karasev plays at my position there, and I didn’t know how to handle this problem’.
In a way that is quickly becoming a tradition for him, Shved followed with ‘but to be serious’ and tried his best to field the reporter’s question. Though it wasn’t easy.
Karasev along with young center Semen Antonov started to howl in the background, and then ‘Big Bad Wolf! – Big Bad Wolf!’ exchange with Shved has ensued.
In a possible attempt to raise his NBA draft stock, Karasev proceeded with a showcase of his balance and soft hands, pirouetting with Antonov in front of camera.
Make no mistake: even though Shved can be somewhat of a goofball and occasionally shows ‘less than super intangibles’ with his appearance, on the court he’s ‘extremely tough and won’t back down from anyone’, as recently confirmed by Timberwolves’ assistant coach Bill Bayno.
Young players obviously went against the will of Russian Prime Minister, who declared ‘no fooling around by athletes’ policy on the verge of the Olympics. But their creative talent helped turn what was destined to be a clichéd post-game interview into so much more.
Follow Alexander Chernykh on Twitter to stay updated on #ShvedFace and Russian basketball.