Shved, Rubio could be backcourt of the future for Wolves

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 4, 2012 - 1:40 PM

The two youngsters have much in common, and with Rubio on his way back from injury, they might soon be on the court together.

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Coach Rick Adelman says Alexey Shved might be the long-sought solution for the Timberwolves at shooting guard.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune file

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Rick Adelman arrived in Minnesota 15 months ago known as a coach who values his veterans and often views rookies with a suspect eye.

So then he went and introduced much-ballyhooed Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio to the NBA by playing him little in opening quarters at first but almost every available second at game's end right from the very beginning.

And now he is doing much the same with Russian rookie Alexey Shved, who played all of Friday's fourth quarter in a 95-85 victory over Milwaukee.

Shved continues to come off the bench nightly, long after Rubio was promoted to starter a season ago.

But, like Rubio before him, he quickly has become a fourth-quarter fixture, producing 54 percent of both his points and rebounds this season in those final 12 minutes. He's the team's fourth-quarter leader in points, assists and steals, a product of both his skills and a season when the Wolves have been ravaged by injuries.

"I don't know why this happen," Shved said when asked about thriving when the game is on the line.

Adelman has his theories, and they mirror Rubio's development a season ago.

Both turned professional at precocious ages -- Rubio in Spain at 14, Shved in Russia at 16 -- and played against men more than a decade older at the highest levels in Europe for years.

Each played in a Euroleague Final Four, Rubio played in the Olympics at age 17 and Shved at age 23 before they arrived in the NBA.

"They're both similar," Adelman said. "They grew up playing over there so young. They've played in so many games. Once they get used to the league, they're not afraid of anybody. That's what you need. You need to give them some rope and let them go out and see what they can do."

Adelman paired Shved and Rubio together in a practice backcourt Sunday and Monday, Rubio's first two practices back from March knee surgery.

They share not only similar backgrounds in Europe; they also share similar games. Each is an unorthodox, creative playmaker who uses long arms and determination to impact the game on the defensive end and calls upon his imagination to change it at the other end.

Together, they are the Wolves' backcourt of the future.

Rubio's presence there has been a given since the Wolves signed him in May 2011, nearly two years after they selected him fifth overall in the 2009 draft.

Shved's future there is being overlooked by some Wolves followers who have clamored in recent years for the team to obtain a bona fide shooting guard. That guy is Shved, whom the team signed to a three-year, $10 million contract last summer.

"I think he will be," Adelman said when asked if Shved is the long-term answer at the shooting-guard spot. "I think he's a much better shooter than he has shown to this point. If he plays with Ricky, he'll get open shots and he'll knock those down. We've seen it time after time in practice: He makes shots. I think he'll become more of a solid shooter.

"What's good about him is you've seen his playmaking ability, too. He gives you both things."

With the Wolves headed to Philadelphia and Boston for games Tuesday and Wednesday, Rubio's return still probably is eight days away and Adelman said he prefers to bring Shved's scoring and energy off the bench alongside J.J. Barea for now rather than promote him to a starter role.

"All my career, I'm playing from the bench," Shved said. "It's important who starts the game, but it's more important who finish the game. I like playing from the bench."

But make no mistake: Rubio and Shved will play together soon -- and a lot -- in what could become one of the league's most dynamic, entertaining backcourts.

"We will see in the future," Shved said with a smile when asked how his game will fit with Rubio's. "He's very smart player. He know when he shoot, when he can give pass. He can give me pass for three-point shot. We will see how we play the next games. Right now, we play great. With Ricky, we play much, much better."

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