Riffing off a theme, new Timberwolves center Ronny Turiaf spends his days, among many other things, urging teammate Alexey Shved to smile more.
Last season, TNT’s wired microphone caught Ricky Rubio imploring Shved to “Change your face, be happy, enjoy it” coming out of a timeout in a video snippet that careened around the Internet.
Now Turiaf unknowingly has joined the chorus, encouraging the second-year Russian guard to play with more joy and less concern for his errors while coach Rick Adelman just wants Shved to become more “engaged” when he’s playing off the ball.
“If Alexey smiles, everything else takes care of itself,” Turiaf said. “If he doesn’t smile, he’s a different player.”
Much has changed for Shved since a rookie season in which his ball-handling and playmaking tantalized at times. But as plain as day, he also slammed into that rookie wall in the final months during a year when he played more minutes than anyone imagined.
Now he is a year wiser and stronger — “I make muscles,” he says — even if the wiry 6-6 combo guard still weighs the same starting a season when he no longer has fellow countryman Andrei Kirilenko by his side.
“He’s my great man, my good friend and he really helps me,” said Shved, who says he still talks to Kirilenko every other day after his pal signed with Brooklyn last summer. “But he has his life and I have my life.”
Shved and Kirilenko played together on the Russian national team and for a CSKA Moscow team that visits Target Center for the Wolves’ preseason opener on Monday night. A 10-year NBA veteran who’s nearly a decade older, Kirilenko guided Shved through every step of a rookie season in a foreign country and league.
“Maybe not having A.K. here does affect him because he used to talk to Lexey all the time, and in Russian,” Adelman said. “We don’t have anybody who can do that right now.”
Adelman is not as concerned about a smile as he is Shved’s energy — or lack thereof — when he’s not controlling the ball. Shved now must adjust the way he has played most of his life in a backcourt pairing with J.J. Barea, who, too, likes to dribble and create with the ball.
“His whole game has been when he has had his hands on the ball,” Adelman said. “He’s really good then. When he’s off the ball, he has a tendency to shortcut things.
‘‘He just has to stay with it and become a cutter as well as a ballhandler.”
Adelman knows Shved isn’t the most expressive player — perhaps partly because he’s still learning English or his nationality — but he has never been a coach who tries to change player’s personalities and isn’t about to now.
“He’s just not that way,” Adelman said. “I think it’s the way he has always been. I don’t think he has been any different. The biggest thing is he’s got to continue to play hard all the time and respond to challenges. There’s a lot of competition out here and guys are very physical, and he’s got to respond to that.
“He has had his ups and downs. He’s still a young player. He’s not someone who is negative or anything. You can have a good time with him. It’s just the way he’s always approached things and you have to understand that, too.”
Rubio hasn’t yet this season urged Shved to change his face, but it’s early.
“People have their own way to play basketball,” Rubio said. “Mine is having fun and enjoying. He is, too, but sometimes he worry about some mistakes or not getting that call and here in the NBA, it’s something you have to play through.”
Shved smiled Sunday when he spoke about meeting up with his Moscow mates over the weekend before Monday’s game.
“Maybe sometimes I am thinking about the game and I am not smiling,” he said when asked if he needs to play with more joy. “First of all, this is the game. You need to win this game and afterward, I can smile.”
Forward Dante Cunningham missed Sunday’s practice because of what Adelman called those flu-like symptoms.