Musel's Musings: A Russian Revelation For Wolves
I was all set to write a post about Alexey Shved. I even had an awesome title, “Right Said Shved”, and I even changed some of the lyrics to Right Said Fred’s hit song, ”He’s too sexy for this layup/too sexy for this layup/made a circus shot, now pay up.”
But I had to scrap most of that when Shved only played in garbage time Tuesday night against Maccabi Haifa. Enjoying the comforts of press row, I was really looking forward to seeing Shved get lots of minutes. But he played just 14 minutes and didn’t check in until there was less that 2:00 left in the 3rd quarter when the team was already up by 16. Shved was not the Russian star of this tilt. That award for MVRP goes to Andrei Kirilenko.
Kirilenko was amazing. He was everything he has been billed as. The man had six rebounds in the first quarter and only bothered to take one shot from the field in that same time frame. Instead, he got his teammates involved and he did it on both ends of the court. On more than one occasion, I witnessed Kirilenko barking out defensive orders to teammates, ensuring that everyone was on the same page. I can’t tell you how much this thrills me. I have no fear that once the season starts and All-Star Kevin Love -- when he returns from the right hand injury -- stops to discuss his last offensive possession with the ref, AK-47 will be there to hold him accountable. Last season there was nobody, outside of maybe Brad Miller, who had the clout to do such a thing, and let’s be real: Miller was only really able to do that during the next called timeout.
Kirilenko finished the game with two steals and one block, very respectable and still not telling the entire story. He was everywhere. He was in the passing lanes, in the paint, tipping passes and altering shots. He helped when needed and guarded everyone, seemingly all at once. This is most definitely not last year’s starting small forward, Michael Beasley. If Beasley ever stole an inbounds and dunked it on the other end, I’d have called it an aberration. When Kirilenko does it, I’ll call it Tuesday.
On the offensive end, Kirilenko was a passing machine. The box score may only read five assists, but he probably should have ended the game with about nine if the recipient of his passes hadn’t fumbled or if the NBA counted assists the way hockey does. Kirilenko threw at least two beautiful no looks; one wasn’t converted by guard Brandon Roy, but the other was thrown down with authority by forward Dante Cunningham. Did I mention that the Cunningham assist was also behind the back?
I predict a lot of Kirilenko to Love to Player X, or vice versa. That seemed to be the theme of the night including a sequence that started with a Nikola Pekovic block that was gathered by AK-47, then tossed up the court to a streaking Love, who in turn threw the ball over his head to Pekovic for the slam. On top of all of that, Kirilenko was able to get to the line at-will. Kirilenko, Roy, and Love went 25/27 from the charity stipe. Name a Wolves SG/SF/PF line-up that was capable of doing that on a nightly basis? Don't suggest Sam Cassell because he was a point guard.
Alright, that’s enough about Kirilenko. I still have to talk about what I saw out of Shved against the Bulls Saturday. He dominated the 4th quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 in the final frame and doing it in style. He was stopping and popping, finishing with finger rolls and using the wrong hand to finish when necessary.
In the game against Maccabi Haifa, I was hoping to get a close up look at Shved playing alongside Kevin Love and his CSKA and Russian National teammate, but that really didn’t happen. Both players had missed the previous game with minor injuries -- silly elbow and tight hamstring were the reasons respectively. All I really saw out of the junior Russian in this game was a nice over the head pass to Barea for a three-pointer and a block that he followed up on the other end with a three-pointer of his own.
All in all, I think that the Russians and Kirilenko in particular are a MAJOR upgrade over the wing play that we’ve seen out of the Timberwolves in the last few seasons. I also can’t wait until Rubio is back and they roll out the International House of Basketball Players (IHOBP) lineup. Shved will have to play small forward in that lineup, but I can see it happening at least once. Remember Adelman was the coach who put four seven-footers out on the court during an All-Star game in 2003.