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:
Allen Iverson has finally decided to pursue his basketball career in China, and has to take what’s available right now – a contract for a handful of exhibition games. It remains possible that the former NBA MVP signs with a professional team in China before start of the season, but so far the talks didn’t result in a deal.
The exhibition games will take place October 18 – 28 in four different cities in China. Iverson will clearly be the biggest star of the event – as he unveiled the tour’s poster, he saw his portrait in the fine company of a retired NBA player Jason “White Chocolate” Williams and AND1 streetballers The Professor and Bone Collector.
Iverson said, “Nice” when he first saw the poster, then turned back again to study the details closely.
But Fedor Likholitov is no pushover either. An athletic 6-11, 260-pound center who played for the Russian national team, VCU (1998-2002) and several top clubs across Europe, he is now the main inside presence for Besiktas. Unlike many European big men, Likholitov doesn’t have much range on his shot and earns his checks by fighting in the paint, rebounding, blocking shots and finishing strong at the rim.
Those four years at Virginia Commonwealth University may come in handy now that the biggest star of the team is Allen Iverson, who will need a lot of stuff explained to him in English. The head coach Burak Bıyıktay is Turkish, and to be fair I don’t know of his language skills. But it will definitely help that the point guard is Mire Chatman, an American. And then there’s A.J. Ogilvy of Australia and Vanderbilt, who quickly went from an NBA prospect to a not so great college center to an ordinary center in Europe.
Likholitov and Chatman joined Besiktas this summer, but they were teammates earlier in their careers, helping Dynamo Moscow win the Eurocup title in 2006. Besiktas plays in the same competition now – Eurocup, a prestigious continental tournament which is second behind the Euroleague and is run by the same organization ULEB. Naturally, the club ownership was hoping that Fedor and Chatman’s experience would result in some wins. Now they can only hope that Iverson is willing to join this fight too.