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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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.
– 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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