I’ve occasionally taken time from writing about politics on LFR to write about great athletes in Minnesota sports. This is another of those times. I won’t write about Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the NFL, though he’s certainly deserving of all the praise he gets.
I’m not writing this post about Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio, either. Once Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio get back into game shape, the T’Wolves will be a formidable NBA team. It’s quite possible they’ll make the NBA playoffs with that dynamic duo.
I can’t wait to see newly acquired Alex Meyer, a flamethrowing righthander that the Twins acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Denard Span. That isn’t likely to happen this season but it’s likely he’ll be part of the Twins rotation in 2014.
The player I’m focusing on tonight is possibly Minnesota’s best kept secret. It’s time T’Wolves fans got to know more about Alexey Shved. Quite a few years ago, then-T’Wolves Kevin McHale passed on Manu Ginobli late in the 2nd round. T’Wolves never let McHale live that down.
This past summer, T’Wolves VP of Basketball Operations David Kahn signed undrafted free agent Alexey Shved prior to the Olympics. He’s been quietly turning heads in Rubio’s absence with his shooting, his ability to play the point and his lights out performances in the fourth quarter.
Friday night was a perfect example of a ‘typical’ Shved game. Shortly after entering the game, Shved hit a pair of 3-pointers. Then he went silent the rest of the half and the entire third quarter, at least in terms of scoring. He still played smart defense, limiting Monta Ellis’ offensive production after he’d gotten off to a fast start.
Then came the fourth quarter and what a performance Alexey put on. He played the entire quarter, ran the point, distributing the ball to the open player while hitting shot after shot. Granted, he didn’t turn into a Kevin Durant- or LeBron James-like scoring machine. Still, he hit some key shots like his 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left on the shot clock.
Columnists have given him the nickname of the ‘Russian Rubio’ because his court vision and instincts are extraordinary. He’s great at pushing tempo. He’s what fantasy hoops players talk about as a stat sheet stocking stuffer. In a year or two, it won’t be surprising when he scores 18, grabs 5-8 rebounds, dishes off 7-8 assists with 2 steals and a block.
What I haven’t talked about yet is what’s most important. What’s most impressive is the fact that he isn’t overwhelmed by the situation. He’s played in the Olympics. He’s hit big shots at crucial moments. Like Rubio, the game doesn’t get too big for them.
Minnesota T’Wolves fans, I hope you take the time to get to know Alexey. He’ll be putting smiles on T’Wolves fans for the next decade.
Former Twins manager Tom Kelly said that putting Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, Frankie Viola, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris made him a smarter manager. It won’t be long before Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved will be making T’Wolves coach Rick Adelman a smarter coach, too.