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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Timberwolves’

Andrei Kirilenko on 2013 free agency, Brooklyn and Sergey Karasev

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.

Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love

– 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.

Timofey Mozgov talks trade deadline, summer plans

February 25, 2013 2 comments

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.

moz-blocks

- 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.

Andrei Kirilenko leaves Russian national team to spend more time with his family

February 23, 2013 2 comments

Here is my translation of the entire statement by Andrei Kirilenko regarding his retirement from the Russian national team. He presented it as a monologue via phone, talking to the Sport-Express journalist Pavel Osipov.

Recently I had a long talk with the president of Russian basketball federation Alexander Krasnenkov. I have stated my own position to him in detail and said that I consider retirement from the national team.

The reason is not fatigue. I have thought about it a lot and took advice from a great number of people, mostly relatives and close friends. Many of them don’t object that I continue to play, but… The intense NBA season makes one spend a lot of time away from the family. It takes up all your time for six and a half months at least. I want to be the best dad that I can and take great part in their lives. I want to see them growing up – not limiting myself to just telling them a tale before they go to bed, when I come back home at 10 or 11 and they are not sleeping, waiting for me.

I am not ready to spend my entire summer with the national team and not with my family. If there was a way to do both, I would definitely do it. Yes, we managed to find a compromise before. Sometimes my wife and kids joined me in training camp. But I can’t and shouldn’t drag them along with me. They have their own schedule which I need to adjust to.

I would hate to keep everyone waiting for a long time. It was important to make up my mind and let everyone know about my decision soon – the coaches, teammates and fans. You know that it would happen anyway, sooner or later. Especially now that time has come for the new leaders – Shved, Karasev and others. And the current veterans – Khryapa, Monia and Fridzon – aren’t done yet.

Krasnenkov asked me about one thing: not to give my final word. Originally I wanted to make my plans for the entire Olympic cycle, right up to Rio de Janeiro. But the president and I decided to make a decision only regarding the upcoming Eurobasket and to return to the talks about the national team after a year or two. Maybe then I will once again feel the need for emotions which I am saying no to right now?

As for now, I am doing what I think is necessary. Personally I feel that I gave the national team all I could. And it’s time to pass my power and my responsibility to others. I know that someone will agree with that and someone will criticize me. But, in my opinion, the time has come. Even though I can play at the highest level for another three or four years…

It was always a great pleasure to join the national team. But at the same time I understood that you can’t give a half-hearted effort. If you show up at the training camp, you should take pains just like everybody else. Those 12 years that I spent on the national team gave a lot to me as a person and as a basketball player. We won medals at big international tournaments and those wins will stay in memory forever.

I am grateful to the national team for everything, for all the positive and negative moments. To all the guys that I was lucky to play with. Starting with the veterans who accepted me, a 17-year old, and to the current youth to which I am a veteran myself. And definitely, thank you to all the fans, especially those who were with us in Madrid during the 2007 Eurobasket which we won and in London during the Olympics.

Believe me, this decision didn’t come easy, but for the comfort of my kids I have to sacrifice something. And even if I will never play another game for the national team, I am not saying farewell to it. In any case I will be taking part and helping in some way. But to give it all my free time to an extent that I used to, unfortunately, I can’t.

I say great job by the federation president – nobody really needed that decision, as Kirilenko will be a welcome addition to the team whenever he ever has the opportunity. Retiring officially would make it somehow harder for Kirilenko to come back if he wants to, even though Dirk Nowitzki did come out of retirement with Team Germany.

At the same time, it would be insane to demand something from a player who has already sacrificed 9 of his 12 offseasons.

So we’ll keep the teary moments until the official retirement, and let’s wish Kirilenko manages to add an NBA title to his huge collection, and spends quality time with his family.

Alexey Shved talks braces, beer, missing his hair, Iverson as genius, and wearing his pajamas to practice

February 5, 2013 4 comments

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.

Photo by Dmitry Nikonov

Photo by Dmitry Nikonov

- 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.

Luol Deng, Alexey Shved

- 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:

Alexey Shved talks about MSG, holidays, compares Moscow and Minneapolis

December 27, 2012 Comments off

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?

- Yes.

- 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.

S Novym Godom! Happy New Year!

S Novym Godom! Happy New Year!

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Kirilenko analyzes Timberwolves’ game, talks five-by-fives, Rubio

December 8, 2012 Comments off

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.

Kirilenko blocks

- 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.

Shved: It was about time to start making some threes

December 4, 2012 Comments off

Journalist Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express has interviewed Alexey Shved on the phone after the Russian guard tied Luke Ridnour in scoring with 16 points in Minnesota’s win.

Here’s my translation:

- Even though Minnesota won, it still had the same problem: during the second half, team inevitably struggles on offense. For example, during the third quarter today, Timberwolves couldn’t score for five and a half minutes. Why does it happen?

- We are doing our best, but at one moment it’s just – pow! – and we stall. We have missed a lot of open shots today, even though we executed well. It helped that we defended well, and also managed to recollect ourselves on offense just in time.

- Minnesota got a lot of help from you – those three-pointers were timely. You have made four three-pointers for the game – that’s your best record during the NBA career.

- (Laughing) Actually I don’t track my stats this closely. But of course it’s really good that I made it. It was time for me to start making the shots at last.

- Thanks to what exactly?

- I have started to feel my shot; I have more confidence shooting the ball in general. And maybe I got used to the American three-point arc after all.

Shved shoots

- Is it more difficult for you to shoot from behind the arc that is about three feet farther away than in Europe?

- I wouldn’t say so.

- And you have proved it that distance doesn’t make any difference – when you made a shot from almost 30 feet away with less than two minutes to go.

- I have checked the scoreboard right when I received the ball. Also, teammates told me that time was running out. If we had at least five extra seconds then I wouldn’t shoot it from that distance and would try to do something else. But in that situation I had no choice. When you have the ball it your hands with two seconds left, you just have to shoot it anyway.

- You have made 9 of 17 shots from behind the arc during the last three games. Can you say that you managed to find your shot after all?

- Let’s wait for a few more games and make conclusions then. Before that, I had 10 games when I couldn’t make anything. If I continue to make shots, then it will mean that I got used to playing here.

- Do the opponents still doubt your ability to score from the distance, or did they start to guard you closer?

- They are guarding me closer. And they started to jump at my pump fakes too – before, they wouldn’t even move. Actually, it’s good that they are guarding me closer now. It’s much easier to drive to the hoop this way. When you can’t shoot, the defender would step away further and it’s easier for him to defend.

- It’s been a few games since Love, Pekovic and Barea returned. But you still play more than 30 minutes in every game. Did you think you would get so much playing time?

- Without a doubt, Andrei’s absence due to injury in those games affected that. I got some extra playing time. But it was also more difficult to play. Having Kirilenko on the floor helps, I feel much more comfortable playing with him.

Then, another shooting guard, Chase Budinger, is injured.

Of course I’m happy that so much trust is being put in me. And I want to justify it, to help the team as much as I can. Not just on offense, but on defense too. Even though I know it perfectly that I play bad defense.

- Is it harder to play defense in the NBA than in Europe?

- Of course! Take [Juan Carlos] Navarro and [Kobe] Bryant, for example. Both are superstars, but there’s a difference. Playing against Navarro you know that you need to deny him the open shot and his trademark ‘La Bomba’. But how do you defend Kobe, who knows how to do absolutely everything?

- Probably the best recent news for Minnesota is that Ricky Rubio returned to practice.

- Yes, he started to practice with the team and should be back on the floor soon. When exactly it will happen is unknown. But it will be soon. Players, fans and journalists are all waiting for his return.

- Will Rubio’s return affect your playing time?

- I don’t think so. After all, I rarely play point guard – mostly at shooting guard. Of course, we’ll see. But one thing is certain: I need to work hard all the time and earn my minutes, prove that I deserve it. Yes, some really bad off games happen. But coach still trusts me – and, believe me, it’s very important.

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