Kirilenko Invaluable To Wolves, Shved

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DALLAS – Andrei Kirilenko has been a godsend to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Russian rookie Alexey Shved during this strange twist of a season.

It’s a minor miracle that the Wolves are still sniffing playoff contention considering their barrage of injuries. One major reason is Kirilenko, the 11-year NBA veteran who is in his first season with the Wolves after a decade-long run with the Utah Jazz. He spent the 2011-12 season enjoying a one-time homecoming in Russia, playing before family and friends during the NBA’s lockout and shortened season.

The versatile, 6-foot-9 forward was always going to figure in as a major piece to the rotation, but he’s been invaluable in the wake of long-term injuries to forwards Chase Budinger and Kevin Love, among multiple other injuries such as to Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee that have thrust the surprising Shved into a starter’s role at shooting guard.

“We had some seasons when we had a lot of injuries, but this is something crazy,” said Kirilenko, whose scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounds (6.8) and minutes (34.8) are all his best since the 2005-06, and his 50.8 shooting percentage ranks as a career high. “We never played together [with a full roster] for even one game. It’s tough to play that way, but I guess this is the reality of NBA basketball.”

Then there’s been the big brother role Kirilenko’s embraced mentoring Shved, who turned 24 last month. But with a baby face and a mouth full of braces, some might say Shved could could pass for, well, a 12-year-old. Which is exactly how old he was when he first met Kirilenko and asked Russia’s No. 1 basketball player to sign a picture for him.

“He’s a great guy and he has a lot of bright moments in front of him,” said Kirilenko, who turns 32 next month and beams at Shved more like a proud papa than a big brother. “I think he started the season well and he can really be a great contributor to a team.”

Two-thirds of Russia’s NBA contingent play for the Wolves. Timofey Mozgov, currently buried on the Denver Nuggets’ bench, is the other. Kirilenko and Shved know each other quite well now after playing last season together for CSKA Moscow, and the two fashioned quite a dynamic duo on the Russian Olympic team that put hoops back on the map in their country by taking bronze in London.

They were gearing up for the Games when Shved, signed as a free agent by Minnesota in July, got word that he would continue on as Kirilenko’s teammate in Minnesota.

“He is the best player in Russia,” said the 6-foot-6 Shved, whose game (10.8 ppg and 4.7 apg) has emerged quicker than his grasp of the English language, which he speaks softly and carefully. “He is smart, he plays hard. Everybody wants to be a player like this.”

Just as Spanish-speaking J.J. Barea (from Puerto Rico) aided the Spain-born phenom Ricky Rubio last season in his arrival stateside, having Kirilenko around to show Shved the ropes of the NBA and American life has been invaluable.

And who knows, perhaps soon Shved will serve a similar role to another wide-eyed countryman that makes his way to the NBA.

Sergey Karasev might be the next [one],” Kirilenko said of the 6-foot-7, 19-year-old shooting guard who averages 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for Triumph Lyubertsy in the Russian Professional Basketball League. “He might be joining us soon.”

9 Comments

  1. big cat says:

    I remember the days when ak – 47 was the best shot blocker in the league, this shved kid looks like the next ginobili to me, he’s a flat out scorer ,

    • ko0kiE says:

      I hope you’re talking about the russian league?

      when he came to the league there were certain guys with the names Camby, Ratliff, O’Neal, Mourning, Robinson, Duncan, Mutombo and even Olajuwon was still playing… and you say he’s better than all those guys? are you KIDDING me?

      • big cat says:

        he led the league in blocks in the 04 – 05 season , like 3.5 a game , do your homework idiot , he was the most versatile player in the league at the time , and to this day is still one of the elite defenders in the nba just never gets any press cause he played a majority of his career in Utah and now Minnesota, how you like them apples there chief

  2. Nope says:

    if there’s a curse it came in with brandon roy and his busted knees

  3. KevinGarnettOverratedVotedfor AllStarevenCelticsisLastSeed says:

    Yeah..I know how you feel portland fan..Greg oden and Sam Bowie..Draft Bust of all time..Maybe the GM is the problem for portland..

  4. charles says:

    I wonder if there is something in the training missing for timerbolves that they get this many injuries. I mean if you believe in bad luck, great. But bad luck is for people who are unwilling to ask the tough question: Why are they injured so much? Who is their trainer and what is he doing to work on exercises that reduce injuries (especially knee injuries). Is it possible to put something on the knee to reduce the impact, is it the shoes, is it lack of stretching? I mean Budinger, Rubio, and Lee all lost to knee issues? Also, love hurting his hand again raises this issue: did they let him begin too early? should they have taken a more cautionary approach to make sure his hand is fully healed? When you take bad luck out of the equation, you’re left with questions after questions….

    • james says:

      they contracted a curse, created by an ancient native vodoo shaman

    • amitpal says:

      You make a good point somtimes it is the trainer but sometimes bad stuff just happens u know. I live in portland and we r really used to injury. One time we had three center and all three centers got injured. Everyone in portland was thinking is the center spot cursed for the blazers. Some were saying its the trainer but it was only the centers who were injured thst time. Yeah later on we had al the guards like brandon roy and eliiot williams and everything. So yeah it could have been the trainer it could have been the injury history’s of the player or it could be just bad luck. And I think thats all it is.