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.
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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.
Follow me on Twitter for more Shved updates.
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.
Follow me on Twitter for Kirilenko updates.
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.
Having played great during Russia’s 95-72 win over Great Britain (boxscore), Timberwolves’ new guard Alexey Shved had to answer a lot of questions in English in the mixed zone. But later, Nikita Zagdai of Sports.ru got him for an exclusive interview in Russian.
Here’s a quick translation:
I passed every ball to [Andrei] Kirilenko, because we’re a duo. All Minnesota players feel special! Getting ready for the next season. But to be serious, it just happened this way. I had the ball, and he was open. We got used to playing together in CSKA. He scores, I’m passing the ball. It works great.
Your line is phenomenal: 16 points, 13 assists and 6 rebounds. Did you know you were close to a triple-double?
I didn’t even think about it. Only learned about the assists from guys on the bench. And also felt it myself, that I have dished a lot. But I didn’t check it on purpose. I was thinking more about the need to win this first game. And the second one. These are the most important games for us right now.
It seemed like the game involved the guards more, they were always a center of attention. Should it be like this, or did it happen because of the opponent?
I wouldn’t say so. We have everybody playing good. Bigs on the pick-n-rolls… well, everybody. When we need to, we are feeding the ball to bigs – or to Kirya, like today. We try to do act depending on the situation. Before each game we discuss everything, watch and decide what’s the best thing to do.
13 assists – did you move to point guard full-time? Getting ready to run the team in Minnesota?
No, I wasn’t even told what position I would play. But I’m ready for anything. I’ll play whatever way they need me to. I’m ready for everything, and then whatever happens, happens. We’ll see.
Your team was one of the last to arrive in London. What did you get to see already, what surprised you?
Well, everything! This is my first Olympics, after all. Everything is new. The Olympic village, all the athletes living together. We were welcomed really good. It’s fun. I liked it a lot. And one time we managed to visit a mall. There were a lot of people and we took a lot of pictures. But we’ll have a day off, so we’ll go out somewhere and look around.
While Andrei Kiirlenko has yet to be officially introduced as a player of the Timberwolves, he’s already talked extensively about his new team during the interview with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express (in Russian).
Here’s a quick translation that I made:
Are you happy with the way situation resolved?
Very. At last my free agency is out of the picture and I may concentrate on the Olympics, not having to think about anything that surrounds basketball.
Why did you prefer Minnesota over another NBA club, the Brooklyn Nets, which was also interested?
Actually, I had not only these two options in the NBA but a lot more. But I don’t think it would be right to discuss them now. I will only say that Timberwolves made a very good offer.
When did you personally decide that you were coming back to the NBA?
I have talked to CSKA president Andrei Vatutin a long time ago, and we both decided that we can’t delay this. CSKA couldn’t become a hostage of my decision. As previous season showed, I’m in great shape and I’m ready to play at the highest level. Yes, I felt comfortable in Moscow. But NBA is NBA. In order not to regret anything later, I had to go to America. And Vatutin understood me, for which I’m grateful. We’ve been friends for a long time and try not to let each other down.
How much time did it take to choose the best offer?
Less than two weeks. You can count it yourself, since the signing period started July 12 this year. I really didn’t want it to be made into some kind of a saga, when people sit and guess where would Kirilenko end up. So from the very beginning I was very active examining all the offers. I considered it important that not only I felt comfortable there, but also that the club would be interested in Kirilenko the player too. It worked out exactly like that with Timberwolves.
A few days ago another Russian player Alexey Shved has signed with Minnesota. Did it have any influence on your decision?
At the time when he signed, I didn’t think I would end up in Timberwolves at all; I was looking at a lot of options then. But, of course, an opportunity to become teammates with Shved was a plus for Minnesota.
How difficult it will be for you, to come back to NBA after a season in Europe?
I don’t think it’s going to be hard. After all, I didn’t leave NBA for such a long time – just some four or five playing months.
Can you say that your previous season was a lighter one? Taking into account that European schedule is not as busy as in NBA?
I agree, exactly because of the number of games. I have been spending less energy during last season and it helped me regenerate. Especially against the background of an NBA lockout season, when teams had to play back-to-back-to-back games.
Was it hard to leave CSKA?
It really was. It’s always hard to go away. But, I’ll say it again, I consider this decision the right one. Up until this moment not a single person whose opinion I value has said that it’s better that I stay. Everybody understands the situation right. Yes, deep inside they want me to play here in Russia, but they understand that I need to be there. Because the best league in the world is NBA.
ON FUTURE TEAMMATES AND COACH
Do you have great teamwork as a duo, Kirilenko – Shved?
We’ve played together at CSKA and the Russian national team. We don’t have any difficulties working together, so we’ll only have to get used to playing with other players. Of course, among those, Kevin Love stands out. He had an unbelievable breakout season last year and turned from a great player into a real superstar. So, there is a super-player, quite a few Europeans and talented young players who were drafted. And, T’Wolves also have a great coach in Rick Adelman. I really liked the way his Sacramento played in 2000’s, with Webber, Divac and Stojakovic on the roster. Anybody on that team could score, make passes and defend. You may want to call it total basketball, just like the way Netherlands’ national team played soccer.
Do you know Adelman in person?
It used to be just a nodding acquaintance. We’ve talked a few times. He’s a very nice person to talk to. By the way, during the contract talks he called me several times and described the way he sees my role on the team.
You are going to be the oldest and most experienced player on the T’Wolves roster. Is this a new thing to you?
Am I? I didn’t know that. On the one hand, I like it. On the other, you understand that time passes and you are becoming old [laughs]. But, that’s the way it is. By the way, I got used to that role during the last couple years – on the national team and in CSKA. And I don’t feel myself old at all, especially since my physical condition should allow me to play at the highest level for three or four seasons at least.
Are you ready to become a mentor for younger players?
I strongly dislike the word ‘mentor’, and I’m never going to become one. No matter how young the player is – if he got into NBA, then it means something. I will never be the one to point others what they should do. But I’ll be glad to give hints here and there – to give hints, not to teach.
There will be at least four European players on T’Wolves’ roster, and five foreigners. Is it a good thing or not?
It’s great when a lot of players are familiar with European style of basketball, because the level of basketball IQ in it is higher.
Do you know Ricky Rubio in person?
Just on a level when you say ‘hi’ when you see each other. But I guess, not it will be impossible to avoid getting to know each other [laughs].
Rubio is a point guard, and Minnesota’s game will depend on him a great deal.
Mainly, the schemes will revolve around Love, which of course is right. But in this situation other pieces of the puzzle are very important too, so that everyone is used according to what he can do. I trust Adelman’s talent; he will definitely find the right role for me. His previous clubs, Sacramento and Houston, had a lot of substance in their game.
You have said it several times recently, that it’s important for you to play for an NBA title contender. Is it possible with Minnesota?
You just try and guess… Sometimes a team as everything to reach The Finals, but then gets beat unpredictably in the first round. Yes, there are teams to beat in the NBA – last year’s finalists Miami and Oklahoma-City. But small forward positions on their rosters are filled not bad, to put it lightly – respectively by LeBron James and Kevin Durant [laughs]. As for tournament outlook for Minnesota, on paper it looks good. In the first place, thanks to the young roster, which gained experience during last season. At the very least, it’s realistic for this team to make the next step and reach playoffs.
Right now Olympics is the agenda of the day. But when are you planning to go to the States?
NBA training camps start in October. So, the month and a half available for vacation after the Olympics is a huge plus. After all, this summer I only had one week off. So I’m really glad that after the Games I’ll be able to spend some time with my family.
Alexey Shved has returned to Moscow and was interviewed today by Anton Solomin of Sport-Express about his trip to Minnesota. (UPD: extended the introduction to stress it more that I only did a translation of the original interview this time)
Here’s a quick translation:
- It’s early to make a conclusion. Reports saying that I’m definitely going to Minnesota are not entirely true. I didn’t sign a contract yet. Yes, I have visited the club, looked at the way it works and talked to the team representatives. And now I’m back in Russia to join the national team in two days.
- Did you meet Rick Adelman?
- No, he wasn’t there at the time. But I know that he’s a great coach who likes to work with young players.
- What are the chances that you’ll be wearing a Timberwolves jersey start next season?
- I’d say about 80 percent.
- The other 20% are Memphis and Cleveland?
- Not necessarily. Right now I’m a CSKA player. Though, of course, I want to try what I can do in the States. I had several offers from NBA teams, but together with my agent Obrad Fimic we decided to go to Minnesota. Right now Obrad is in Vegas, where the Summer League games are taking place – he’s there to continue the talks.
- Why did you choose the Timberwolves? Is this a club that has shown the most interest, or does it just suit you better as a team?
- Both. The Timberwolves have been watching me, and also it’s a young team that suits me.
- What do you think is your position in the NBA?
- It doesn’t matter. I like to play point guard, and shooting guard as well. So I’m playing wherever coach puts me.
- But Minnesota has both of these positions covered by accomplished stars in Ricky Rubio and Brandon Roy…
- It’s all right. In CSKA I also had to fight to gets minutes on the court. Everybody has to go through this.
- A lot of people say that you have to bulk up and also improve your defense in order to be successful in the NBA. What do you think of that?
- Basketball is really more athletic there. If the club says that I need to put on weight, I’ll do it. I’ll try to improve on defense too. It all depends on your desire. If you want it really bad, then everything is going to happen.
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