Wessel: Alexey Shved has been a bright spot in Wolves' tough season
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Alexey Shved has been the one of the few pleasant surprises in a season full of nightmare scenarios playing out for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In his third game since returning from a sprained ankle, Shved scored 12 points and added eight assists on Saturday night in the Wolves' 115-86 throttling of the New Orleans Hornets at Target Center.
Shved has scored in double-digits in all three games since returning and continues to play a much bigger role than anybody expected.
He was seen as something of an afterthought in the roster overhaul last offseason that was supposedly going to lead this franchise back to the playoffs. Shved was viewed as a project, a guy who might get some minutes in a rookie season that mostly would be used to get him acclimated to the speed of the NBA and life in the United States.
But Shved has been a bright spot on a team full of disappointments and injuries. Fellow newcomers Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger have been out because of injury. It has been Shved who has picked up the slack.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman expects Shved to only get better, knowing the team has asked a lot of the 24-year-old. Certainly, a lot more than they wish they needed to. Shved has played 38 games, started 16 times and has led the Wolves in scoring on six occasions. He is routinely one of the players on the court while the game is on the line.
"He has been great for us all year long," Adelman said. "(We) put a lot of pressure on him from the very beginning, putting the ball in his hands at the end of games."
There is a certain unwavering confidence in Shved that you don't often see in rookies, perhaps built up from the Olympic silver medal he won and the six years he played professionally in Russia before coming to Minnesota.
He doesn't let a bad performance wear on him -- something teammate Derrick Williams could learn from. Shved simply shakes off bad games, often with aid of words of wisdom from teammate and compatriot Andrei Kirilenko. He shot 1-for-6 from behind the three-point arc on Wednesday against the Clippers but followed that up with a 5-for-11 performance two nights later against the Lakers for a team-high 18 points.
"You got to give him credit," Adelman said. "He isn't afraid of anything. He has had to play through things, play through things where he thinks he gets fouled."
And the three-pointers that Shved's taking aren't exactly clean looks. He isn't afraid to fire with a hand in his face, or if he is standing closer to midcourt than he is the three-point line.
"That one he threw in from 15 feet behind the three point line (against the Lakers), he has the ability to make that shot," Adelman said.
Those looks will improve as time goes on.
The Wolves are piecing things together because of injuries. They aren't exactly oozing with on-court chemistry as guys shuffle in and out of the lineup. When the roster finally returns to form and players come back this team will produce more.
"If we had our whole team together and we had a certain rhythm, he is going to get open threes," Adelman said. "Right now he is getting threes (under pressure)."
Shved has off nights. All rookies do. But, for the most part, his play has been steady and improving, just like his grasp of the English language. David Kahn, the Wolves president of basketball operations, takes a lot of well-deserved heat, but he found a player in Shved.
He may not have been the biggest free agent brought in this season, but now you shudder to think where the Wolves would be without him.