Rookie Shved Working Through Big Game Moments
At times, Alexey Shved looks like more than a rookie. He has a fearless edge about him, particularly late in games, and he’s not afraid to drive baseline, survey the floor as he leaves his feet and hit Andrei Kirilenko for a momentum-swinging 3-pointer like he did against the Bobcats on Wednesday—all in the midst of a fourth-quarter comeback.
All rookies have learning curves, but this particular situation is not the norm. Shved is getting opportunities to spark the Wolves off the bench right now more out of necessity than anything else. With the team battling early-season injuries, including Monday’s news that Brandon Roy underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Shved’s minutes have increased. He’s spending an average of nearly 29 minutes on the floor over his past four games as opposed to around 18 minutes in his first five.
With those increased minutes have come more opportunities to both succeed and fall short on both ends of the court. He’s done both, but he continues to be a factor in keeping this back court together, and regardless of outcome he’s been on the floor during crunch time moments throughout his first two weeks.
“He really adds a lot of value to our team,” forward Derrick Williams said. “Without him, we wouldn’t be in a lot of games. We’ve been in the last few because of his play and him knocking down shots.”
These early-season lessons could be valuable for Shved and for the Wolves later on when the team regains its health and tries to make a push at a postseason run. In the first game of the season he was on the court for 4:26 of the fourth quarter. Over the last eight games, he’s played all but 2:28 of the team’s fourth quarter minutes.
He’s been on the court as the team made its 22-point comeback in Brooklyn, attributing a pair of 3-pointers and three assists in the fourth quarter alone. He’s made drives to the basket like he did late in Minnesota’s comeback attempt against the Charlotte Bobcats—a game in which he scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth.
He’s also took his lumps, like a late-game turnover that put Ramon Sessions on the line with the Wolves down 87-86, and guarding Kemba Walker 1-on-1 as Walker hit the game-winning shot moments later with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
But like Ricky Rubio a year ago, another rookie from Europe with a clearly innate gift for surveying the court, Shved shows a promising display of skills each night. On a team battling injuries to two of its three top point guards, Shved offers another able ball handler. For a team missing some of its top 3-point shooters, Shved brings the ability and the confidence to spot up from distance.
And each time Shved gets the ball, fans are intrigued with what type of play might ensue.
When all the injured pieces return and the Wolves are healthy, Shved will be able to take the lessons he’s learned in this prominent role and continue to supplement his teammates in those areas.
“He’s come a long way, especially the last 5-7 games he’s really figured out,” guard Luke Ridnour said. “He’s a really good pick and roll player, and he’s tall and he can see over defenses. And you can see the confidence he has and what type of player he is. He’s just going to keep getting better.”
He’s a unique blend of rookie and veteran—a combination of honed skills and learning curves. Shved has played professionally in Europe since he was a teenager. Now 23, he’s getting his chance to compete against the best in the world on a nightly basis playing a position with some of the most skilled professionals in the game. And though he’s coming off the bench, many of his minutes are against first-team players when the game is on the line.
Coach Rick Adelman has said he normally doesn’t like seeing young players leave their feet and make plays in the air, but Shved seems to have a feel for how to do just that. Not every play results in a highlight-reel—some end in lost possessions—but others get his teammates open looks or momentum-shifting baskets.
“It’s not something you want to teach, it’s not textbook as far as him leaving the floor all the time and trying to find passes,” assistant coach Terry Porter said. “But he seems to have a very good knack for it, that he can see over the floor at times and it’s been great.”
Shved said there is a comfort level with this team that makes those plays easier to execute.
“I feel comfortable because we have a great atmosphere here and everybody helps me—the coach, players. For me that’s important,” Shved said. “I like to play basketball, and I like to play aggressive every time.”
Shved’s role in the team’s most recent games since injuries to Roy and Chase Budinger changed the complexion o the back court has been to add a spark off the bench behind starter Malcolm Lee, and he’s done just that.
Whether he’s succeeded or failed on a given play, he’s been part of the Wolves’ plans down the stretch. And that’s with an injury-plagued roster. Adelman said when the rest of the team returns, particularly Rubio and the way he distributes the ball, guys like Shved will get more regular open looks.
“It will be fun, man,” Williams said. “When we get all of our guys back, we’re going to be a dangerous team. We’re already dangerous now; we’ve lost a few in a row but we’re hanging in there and that’s what coach likes to see.”
Shved is right in the middle of that equation. Learning and getting valuable minutes could go a long way in the rookie’s development throughout this season.
“It’s been good for him just to be able to get out there and just play,” Ridnour said. “Play through mistakes and just keep getting the ball and keep making plays. He’s done a really good job.”