Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. CSKA Moscow | Oct. 7, 2013

Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. CSKA Moscow | Oct. 7, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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CSKA Moscow arrived in Minneapolis over the weekend, affording Wolves guard Alexey Shved a chance to meet up with some familiar faces during their brief stint in the Twin Cities. Shved knows the squad and some of its players well. He has former teammates on this team from Russia’s 2013 EuroBasket squad, coach Ettore Messina was his first pro coach and he began playing for this particular team as a teenager.

Needless to say, having CSKA Moscow in town is special to the second-year shooting guard.

“I’m happy to see them in Minneapolis,” he said.

CSKA Moscow has long been a destination or top names in European ball. It’s where Andrei Kirilenko played before arriving in the NBA as well as during the 2011-12 NBA lockout, and among others it was the club former Duke standout Trajan Langdon played for six seasons.

This particular squad has former NBA players Jeremy Pargo and Sonny Weems on the roster along with a pair of players—Vitaly Fridzon and Evgeny Voronov—played with Shved on the Russian EuroBasket club in Slovenia this summer.

On Monday night prior to tipoff, Shved will be part of an on-court presentation involving an exchanging of gifts between the two organizations—similar to the exchange between the Wolves and Maccabi Bazan Haifa of Israel last season. Shved is also scheduled to make a brief welcome announcement prior to the game.

But once it’s gametime, expect Shved and CSKA Moscow alike to go about business as usual.

“You know, I am a T-Wolves player,” Shved said. “And they are coming to play against me and against my team. I’m going to 100 percent play hard and try to win, trying to play hard every moment.”

Shved had a standout first half of his rookie year in 2012-13, playing so well that he was invited to take part in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge over All-Star Weekend in Houston. He averaged double-digit points through the first three months of the season, with his best month coming in December. That’s when he averaged 32.2 minutes per game, scored 11.4 points and added 5.8 assists per night and shot 35.5 percent from 3-point range.

Following All-Star Weekend, Shved hit the rookie wall. His numbers decreased monthly, and in April he averaged 4.8 points per game in 16.7 minutes per night. Part of that was the transition into the NBA’s 82-game schedule—a rigorous marathon unlike anything Shved had experienced heading into his rookie year.

Over the summer, Shved focused on adding muscle and getting his body prepared for that 82-game grind. He returned to camp this month refreshed and ready to take on the new season.

What will be most intriguing about Shved’s game this year is what role he’ll fill compared to last year. A year ago, his minutes increased early on—Shved even jumped into the starting lineup for 16 games—because of injuries. That sped up the Wolves’ need for him to contribute early in his career as opposed to easing into the NBA game. This year, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin healthy and in the starting back court, Shved will likely get minutes as a combo guard. He’ll likely be one of the first guys off the bench in the 2-guard role, but he’s also viewed as a viable option with the ball and will be a back-up option at the point for Rubio and J.J. Barea.

“I just want to play for the team,” Shved said. “It’s my second year, and it’s more easy for me. Last year, I was in a new country for me. And everything is new.”

For Shved and the rest of his Wolves teammates, the journey starts tonight. Even on this special night with friends and his former team in town, the main goal at the end of the evening remains the same.

“Every game is tough, you know?” Shved said. “Every game, you want to show your best and you want to play hard and you want to win. And this game is the same.”

Quick Hits

  • Dante Cunningham is questionable for tonight due to flu-like symptoms that limited him at practice on Sunday and shootaround this morning. J.J. Barea was not at shootaround due to personal reasons, and his status for tonight was not known.

  • Derrick Williams said being able to play international teams is good for expanding the game of basketball and the NBA abroad. He said it’s nice for Shved, too, because he’ll have familiar faces in town. “It’s always good to play against your friends,” Williams said. “He’ll have a good time tonight.”

  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.