Alexey Shved 'hasn't played well' says Wolves coach
In his second year but with a new role, Alexey Shved is struggling with dwindling minutes and poor play.
By PHIL ERVINFS North
MINNEAPOLIS -- Create the credibility.
That was Brooklyn Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko's advice, verbatim, for longtime friend and Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved when the two Russian transplants got together last Thursday, a day before their respective teams squared off at the Target Center.
This NBA season's early stages haven't gone as planned for either Russian national-team standout. After opting out of his contract with Minnesota and signing with Brooklyn, Kirilenko has missed the past eight games with back spasms, while the injury-plagued Nets have sputtered to a 3-10 start.
Shved's quandary, alternatively, is of the mental variety.
"He lost a little bit of confidence," Kirilenko said.
It's bound to happen to a second-year pro playing limited minutes, shooting horridly and hearing his name tossed about in the trade-rumor winds. Shved hasn't showed Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman enough reliability to earn sustained playing time, and when he does see the floor, he clangs 3s, dribbles recklessly and just doesn’t appear comfortable.
"A frenzy," Adelman calls it.
"Basically, he hasn't played well," the coach said. "There's nothing you can do about it. I think the one thing you can do is keep talking to the guys who don't play and say 'You have to be ready.'"
When called upon, Shved hasn't been.
Appearing in all but one of Minnesota's 15 games, the lanky 24-year-old is shooting 24.4 percent from the field (10-for-41) and 15 percent from 3-point range (3-for-20) in 9.4 minutes per contest. He hasn't been able to develop much cohesion with the rest of the second unit, and he hasn't adjusted well to playing more shooting guard while J.J. Barea backs up Ricky Rubio at the point. Shved's body language hasn't been much better; an in-game smile has become a rarity.
Shved is due to earn $3.15 million this season and is under contract through next year. Some reports say he and forward Derrick Williams -- who's experienced similar struggles -- are on the trading block, as the Timberwolves seek better fits on the wing.
Shved knows, it, too. When discussing his early-season woes with reporters, he explained without provocation that he doesn't want to leave the team that signed him as a free agent in July 2012.
But he wants to see the floor, too.
"I have preference to stay here," Shved said in his thick Russian accent, "but if I want to play more, I've got to work more."
Especially without the ball in his hands. Adelman has taken to rotating starters Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer and reserve small forward Robbie Hummel at the wing spots before using Shved -- a point guard for Russia and CSKA Moscow – except during spot or garbage-time duty.
It's frustrating, he admits.
"It's tougher to play without the ball," Shved said. "You can do nothing. You can play with the ball, you can play bigger role, make shots; but without the ball, it's hard."
His rookie season featured the opposite problem; due to an array of injuries, Shved was forced to play 23.9 minutes per game -- too many for him to gradually adjust to the NBA, according to Timberwolves coaches.
"It's more easier if you play all the time," Shved said. "It's like if you played 25, 30 minutes, it'd be more easier for everybody. It's just hard when you come in with not a lot of time, but you need to do your best for five, 10 minutes. How many minutes coach gives you doesn't matter, you just need to play 100 percent."
That's what Kirilenko -- a 32-year-old, 12th-year NBA veteran -- reminds his former protégé during their weekly conversations.
The two grew rather close during their season together in the Twin Cities. Kirilenko encouraged Shved as he labored to a 37.2 percent field-goal clip as a rookie, then watched him this summer as he took charge of Russia's Eurobasket squad.
The team finished 1-4 and was bounced in the first stage, but Shved shot 47 percent and averaged 16.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. That output came while playing point guard, though.
Regardless of position, the sophomore still has a slump to surpass.
"I can’t help him go through that," Kirilenko said. "I’m obviously not playing (here). And he’s in little bit of a tough position right now.
"All he needs to do is keep working. Like, in this stretch when you’re playing five minutes, 10 minutes, just go hard. Be available for the team, create the credibility."