A New Era For Kirilenko, Shved

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Things are different now for Andrei Kirilenko. After he and new Wolves teammate Alexey Shved helped lead Team Russia to the Bronze Medal this summer—the country’s first medal in men’s basketball since the USSR won Gold in 1988—the past month has been stream of events, promotions and opportunities to grow interest in the sport throughout their native land.

The duo was part of Basketball Without Borders Europe in Moscow over the weekend, an initiative that brought current and former NBA players to Russia in an informative camp setting. Kirilenko and Shved helped teach the game, point out ways to improve and do community work off the court. Both throw achievement and community service, the new Wolves players and the NBA are giving back in Moscow.

Now, they have a similar opportunity in Minnesota.

When Kirilenko and Shved join the Timberwolves in the next two weeks, they’ll bring a unique dynamic that could help their new club take the next step in its own development. Kirilenko is the proven, crafty veteran who still shows an ability to run the floor and play defense. At 23 years old, Shved is a youthful player who can handle the ball and connect from long range.

They’ve played together on CSKA Moscow last year and on Team Russia this summer. Kirilenko said they’ve enjoyed their time playing together and have developed a trust on the basketball court.

“When we are on the floor and he has the ball, he knows what to do,” Kirilenko said. “Even though he’s a young guy, I would probably never tell him not to shoot the ball, don’t do this or don’t do that. I think he knows how to play the game, and it’s very nice when you have a young guy who knows how to play basketball.”

For Shved, the connection is simple.

“He understands me, and I understand him,” Shved said.

The two signed with Minnesota independently, but both decided on the Wolves for similar reasons. There were several factors, including coach Rick Adelman’s reputation, the emergence of Kevin Love as an NBA superstar and the abundance of European players on the roster.

Shved said the up-tempo style the Wolves can play with Adelman and the athletes on the roster were also a big factor. Combining Shved’s court vision with Ricky Rubio’s ability to lead a fast break and coupling that with athletic wings like Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger and Kirilenko make for an awful lot of possibilities in transition.

“It’s like a work in progress. You’re building a machine,” Kirilenko said. “You have those mechanisms together, Brandon Roy joins the team. Now your role in the team is very good, the 3 position. You see yourself in the 3 position and you see how you can go in and help.”

The two are a big part of the Wolves’ new-look roster for 2012-13, a group that currently returns seven of the 15 players on last year’s roster. They’re a combo that brings familiarity with the team’s already visible European style roster—a collection of skills built around ball movement—and could add a new flair to an already revamped, up-and-coming roster.

This summer was filled with new experiences for Shved and Kirilenko, and this fall a new chapter in both of their careers will unfold at Target Center. With all the exposure they’ve helped put on basketball in Russia over the past few months, there’s a good chance they will make the Wolves a popular team in their native land.

“This is very important to me and Russia,” Shved said. “It’s my first Olympics and we won a medal, and right now everybody started watching basketball in Europe and NBA basketball. They’re all talking about that, and they’re talking about the Russian team right now.”

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