Timberwolves reserve guard Alexey Shved was asked Monday why he has been so much more effective lately and why his numbers — and, seemingly, his confidence — have risen.
“If you want to play,” he said, “you have to do better.”
Could it be that simple? To be fair Shved, a Russian, still is not completely fluent in English. So something might have been lost in translation.
But the basic premise — play better to get more minutes — is solid.
And clearly Shved — who appeared close to falling completely out of coach Rick Adelman’s rotation earlier this season — is making a comeback.
In nine January games Shved is averaging 8.2 points off bench, more than double his December average (3.9). In that time he has made 47.6 percent of his three-pointers, going 8-for-17, hitting only two fewer than starting shooting guard Kevin Martin in that time.
In the past five games, the difference is even more striking. Shved is shooting 50.0 percent overall, 46.2 percent on three-pointers, has scored in double figures in four of five games and has six steals and seven assists.
This from a fellow whose minutes and production were so spotty earlier this season he had one or no baskets in 17 of his first 20 appearances.
“He’s more aggressive in the way he’s playing,” Adelman said. “I think one thing he really needs to do is attack the basket. When he has a full head of steam, he needs to finish there. He’s always looking to pass first. That’s why he missed a lot of shots at the basket. He has length. He has jumping ability. He can make the shot.”
Shved’s body language showed just how lost he was early in the season. He exhibits more confidence now and looks for his shot more. Even as the Wolves’ depth has improved with the return of Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger from injuries, Shved is playing more.
It is a testament to the patience Adelman showed in his second-year guard.
“You see things in practice and everything else,” Adelman said. “If you see a young guy who has talent? And there is a spot there, for minutes? You have to put him on the floor and you’ve got to let him make mistakes. Because that’s how they’re going to learn. I’ve always thought this was a game of mistakes. It’s just that you don’t want too many. But you have to try things, to work through it.”
At 6-6, Shved has the height to be effective at both ends of the court. But he does need to get stronger, and he does need to get better at being physical on defense.
But, after starting strong then tailing off last season, Shved is improving as the Wolves get to the halfway point of the season.
“I don’t know. Maybe I just started playing harder, every moment, every game,” Shved said. “I just want to play. And I need to play better, because I played so bad the first part of the season.”
Will it continue? As Budinger plays more and more and finds his rhythm, Adelman’s rotation figures to change. But there will always be a need for a shooting guard who can also handle the ball. So if Shved continues to play better, chances are he will play more.
It’s that simple.
“I don’t think he’s really looking for the fouls anymore, he’s just going in there, playing hard, looking to finish at the rim,” forward Kevin Love said of Shved. “He’s moving the ball, looking to be aggressive. We can all take note of that.”