Posts Tagged ‘Aleksey Shved’

Bobcats and Timberwolves … Rising?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t rub your eyes. It’s real. As of this morning, the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves are both doing the unthinkable for two teams that have served as league-wide punching bags in recent seasons.

All the fun we’ve had at the expense of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and Timberwolves boss David Kahn has been silenced by the winning ways, so far, of their respective teams. They are both 5-4 and battling their way to respectability while shaking off whatever adversity comes their way.

For all of the early-season shockers around the league, both good and bad, these two winning outfits have to rank at or near the top of the list of biggest surprises.

One of the better games of this young season was the 89-87 thriller they played against each other last week, the one where Kemba Walker‘s buzzer-beater gave the Bobcats their third straight win.

Last night’s comeback win over the Milwaukee Bucks was another quality notch for Bobcats belt this season. They’re digging out of that ugly hole from last season in the only way possible: with their heads down, their defensive style looking legitimate and contributions from up and down the roster.

It’s more than most of us expected from a team with a new coach (Mike Dunlap), a new star (rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and plenty of other new faces added to the mix and continue to defy the odds. Jordan probably didn’t see this coming, not this soon. They didn’t win their fifth game during last year’s lockout-shortened season until March 12, just so we’re clear about how much progress has been made.

The Timberwolves are thriving on the other side of the conference divide without the services of their biggest stars. All-Star power forward Kevin Love (broken hand) and Ricky Rubio (recovering from torn ACL in left knee) have yet to suit up this season. Brandon Roy‘s comeback has been derailed by yet another knee procedure (he’s expected to miss at least a month) and Chase Budinger is out three months after knee surgery).

But Rick Adelman, as he often does, has found a way to cobble together enough healthy bodies to make the Timberwolves a factor every night. Andre Kirilenko‘s return to the NBA has been a huge boost. He leads the team in rebounds (8.3) and blocks (2.2). Fellow Russian Alexey Shved has also made an impression during his first few weeks of NBA action, showing signs that he’ll be a more than competent backup to Rubio, who, according to Jon Krawcynski of the Associated Press, has already started light practice workouts.

“Just having them five-on-(none) gives you a sense that when you get them back we’ll be pretty good,” Adelman said of having both Love and Rubio on the practice court. “We can’t wait for them. We have to go out there and play. But it gives us a sense.”

Love is expected back at the start of December and Rubio potentially a couple of weeks later, which couldn’t come at a better time. After winning five of their first seven games, the Timberwolves have dropped two straight.

Getting by with a shorthanded roster can last for only so long. Nikola Pekovic, not exactly a household name, leads the team in scoring (15.3), with Kirilenko (14.1), Luke Ridnour (11.4), Shved (10.4) and Derrick Williams (10.4) the only other healthy players scoring in that range.

If they can manage for another few weeks or so, at least until the first wave of reinforcements arrive, both the Bobcats and Timberwolves might remain among the teams boasting .500 or better records around Christmas, too.

Five Teams On The Rise

The start of training camp is just days away.

There are 30 teams that believe deep down this is the year they do it. This is the year that it all comes together. This is the year that they win it all again in Miami, finally win it in Oklahoma City or finally break through and make the playoffs in places like Sacramento, Detroit and New Orleans.

The power of positive thinking will be on full display around the league when players convene for the initial stage of the 2012-13 season.

Not all of those hoop dreams will be realized, though, and there will no doubt be teams that are convinced they are prepared to take that next step this season when they simply are not.

But we’re focusing on the positives today, peering into our crystal ball and trying to identify the teams with the goods to make good on whatever promise they’ve shown in recent seasons, Drafts and in the offseasons (in free agency and trades).

There are no guarantees, of course. Injuries and other unforeseen issues can alter the fate of a team at any time.

We’ve checked the radar, though, and the skies are clear for HT’s Five Teams On The Rise … five lottery teams with a chance to move into the realm of playoff contention:

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, 21-45 last season

They were supposed to go away for five or six years after the departure of Lebron James and rebuild quietly. Then Kyrie Irving showed up and forced us all to reconsider. The roster is slowly but surely being fortified to surround a budding star like Irving with a supporting cast capable of making a little playoff noise at some point in the near future.

Anderson Varejao looked like his usual pesky self in London during the Olympics and Tristan Thompson showed significant promise last season as well. They’ll form the foundation of a frontcourt rotation that will include rookie center Tyler Zeller and rugged workman Samardo Samuels.

The only thing that worries us about the Cavaliers is whether or not rookie Dion Waiters is ready to assume his role as Irving’s backcourt sidekick. We were a bit surprised to see him picked where he was in the June Draft, but we were forced to reconsider when a handful of coaches and two league executives we trust gushed about him after the Draft.

Bottom line: With the fearless Irving as the ringleader (he learned from the best in Las Vegas this summer), the Cavaliers have a fighting chance this season.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 31-35 last season

Bucks general manager John Hammond was the league’s Executive of the Year in 2010 for a reason. If he believes that the Monta EllisBrandon Jennings combo is the key to getting this team back to the playoffs, we’ll ride with him. And it’s not like we needed to be convinced. Ellis has always been on our most underrated list and Jennings continues to do his thing without the respect he deserves for the improvements he’s made since entering the league.

Hammond wasn’t afraid to recognize that Andrew Bogut wasn’t the right fit for the franchise, a move that will either look like a disaster or pure genius depending on how things for turn out for Bogut and the Golden State Warriors this season. The Bucks, instead, are opting for the big-man-by-committee approach this season with Sam Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and rookie John Henson manning the paint.

Ersan Ilyasova was a bit of a revelation last season and should give Bucks fans another dose of hope about this season and the future of the franchise. It’s not often a team stumbles onto a gem like Ilyasova, an unselfish worker bee who is effective on both ends of the floor with the range to shoot from deep and the size and versatility to guard as many as three different positions.

Bottom line: The pressure is on and Bucks coach Scott Skiles usually does some of his best work in those situations.


Ricky Rubio To Return In December, Brandon Roy Ready Now For T’Wolves


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Now that the Minnesota Timberwolves have a firm timetable as to when Ricky Rubio will rejoin his teammates on the court, they can move on to the business of crafting a potent attack without one of the best young point guards in the league.

Rubio’s injury and absence last season all but dashed the faint playoff hopes the Timberwolves had. They didn’t have another dynamic playmaker on the team to balance the floor as All-Star power forward (and recent gold medal winner) Kevin Love continued his assault on opposing teams and the stat sheet. But in a summer filled with twists and turns, they did come up with a player capable of not only balancing the floor but taking over games, if his knees hold up, in Brandon Roy.

No offense to Russian rookie point guard Aleksey Shved, who was something of a revelation this summer in London during the Olympics, but the Timberwolves are going to need more than what we think he can give in Rubio’s absence.

If this footage (above) is any indication, Roy appears to be ready to resume the All-Star activities he displayed in Portland, where he starred before knee injury issues forced him to retire before the start of last season.

If he can provide a spark during the first month of the season, Rubio’s return in December should be another swift punch Rick Adelman can add to the Timberwloves’ arsenal this season. The roster is as sound as it’s been in years and the optimism surrounding Rubio’s return is yet another step in a new direction for a franchise that’s been searching for an identity since the Kevin Garnett era ended.


Olympic Quarterfinals: Win Or Go Home

LONDON — This is the day medal dreams go up in smoke for some teams in the men’s Olympic basketball competition. Or, as U.S. Men’s Senior National Team star LeBron James put it, “every game is like a Game 7.”

For the U.S., that means three more Game 7 wins are needed to claim a second straight gold medal in Olympic competition. For the seven other teams that harbor gold (or any other) medal dreams, it’s showtime.

Wednesday’s action-packed schedule, with the four games shifting from the Olympic Basketball Arena to the more familiar, NBA-styled North Greenwich (also known as the O2) Arena, promise to deliver drama and dashed dreams for some. The only game of the four that doesn’t qualify as a blood-feud, on some level, is the final game of the day between the U.S. and Australia. That one, however, features the best scorers of pool play (Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony of the U.S. and Patty Mills of Australia) and the always-intriguing subplot of whether someone will knock off the U.S.

Game 1 — Russia (B1) vs Lithuania (A4), 9 a.m. ET

Linas Kleiza and Lithuania gave the U.S. its toughest game of the competition and will take that confidence into this matchup against a Russian team that, after the U.S., was the most consistently impressive team in pool play. The Russians won Group B by overpowering other teams with an inside-out attack that features future Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Aleksey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko on the perimeter and the unsung and underrated Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov, who outplayed Spain’s heralded frontline in Russia’s win over the reigning European champions. Russia is confident and has every reason to be. But the Russians would be wise to ignore that potential gold medal game against the U.S., a long-awaited rematch of the controversial game from 40 years ago, and stay focused on an extremely dangerous Lithuania team fixated on finishing that near upset of the U.S. (Political ramifications also will be at play in the crowd and beyond with the former occupied Lithuania 22 years removed from declaring its independence from the former U.S.S.R.)


Kirilenko Leads Russia Past China 73-54

LONDON — Andrei Kirilenko and Aleksey Shved powered Russia past China 73-54 in the first game of the day at the Olympic Basketball Stadium.

Kirilenko led the way with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the floor, 7-for-10 from inside the 3-point line. Shed had 14 and six assists. Yi Jianlian led China with 16 points and was the only player from China to score in double digits.