Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

From Russia, With Love: Kirilenko, Shved on their way to Minnesota

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves players, Wolves training camp, Wolves news Updated: September 15, 2012 - 11:58 AM

Andrei Kirilenko working with kids during the NBA FIT Clinic at School 59 yesterday. (credit: Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE).


Photo: Andrei Kirilenko working with kids during the NBA FIT Clinic at School 59 yesterday (credit: Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE). 

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New Timberwolves Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved today finish up the four-day Basketball Without Borders camp they are working in Moscow with Wolves player development coach David Adelman and fellow NBA players Timofey Mozgov, MarShon Brooks, Danny Green and Brian Cardinal.

Next stop: Target Center.

Kirilenko plans to arrive in about 10 days for training camp that begins in Mankato on Oct. 2.

Until then, he will spend these final days of summer at home in Russia, where he, Shved and their national team teammates brought home the Olympic bronze medal last month.

That performance sent them to the Kremlin and a visit with Russian president Vladimir Putin that delayed Kirilenko’s introductory Target Center news conference until he arrives here the last week of September for camp.

He has spent these last four days in what he calls “giving back” to the game that already has given him a 10-year NBA career and now leads him to Minnesota and a two-year, $20 million contract and to his home country where basketball now has produced its first Olympic medal in the sport since the Soviet Union’s breakup and this season is sending countryman Shved to the NBA as well.

Basketball Without Borders is the joint community outreach venture between the NBA and FIBA intended to grow the game globally.

The program has presented 30 camps for promising young players in 15 countries since its inception in 2001.  Since then, 21 players who participated have been drafted into the NBA, including Johan Petro, Andrea Bargnani, Marc Gasol, Nicolas Batum, Danilo Gallinari, Luc Mbah a Moute, Omri Casspi, Enes Kanter, Donatas Montiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas.

This is its first camp ever held in Russia.

Kirilenko today helped unveil a basketball court at a Moscow orphanage that was refurbished in partnership with his “Kirilenko’s Kids” foundation program.

“So much has been going on in Russia with basketball during those 12 years,” he said, referring to when he entered the NBA. “I had a great career and it’s going. I like the way it developed. I’ve been in a lot of places, met a lot of people. Basketball Without Borders is one of those programs you cannot ignore or stay away from. Twenty-one players who have gone through it to the NBA, that’s a huge number.

“NBA players, coaches – some of them legends – they have a chance to share some knowledge and time with a young generation. These young players, they’re picking up those little things which you cannot get otherwise. They’re getting it straight from the game, straight from guys who know. Those little things really help guys improve. They can see how to work hard and how to be successful players. We’ll be seeing some of these guys again (in the NBA).”

Kirilenko will spend these next 10 days in Russia training and preparing to move his family to Minnesota, where he intends to get his boys (ages 10 and 5) enrolled in hockey programs, not basketball.

Shved will arrive with his brother, who is fluent in English and who along with Kirilenko will help Shved adapt to a foreign and a different brand of basketball.

Kirilenko was scheduled to come to Minnesota for his introduction and a look-around in August right after the Olympics.

But then Putin called.

“It’s kind of mandatory, you have to attend,” Kirilenko said, laughing. “You know Putin, you don’t go against Putin in Russia.”

Then he paused with his laughter and made sure to add, “Just kidding.”

 

 

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