After watching the first US and Russia games at this Olympics, I had the urge to overreact and throw together a write-up on how great things were looking for the forthcoming Timberpups season. However, the rational side of my brain took over and I decided to wait it out until the end of the preliminary round. I wound up having to watch both game 1’s via DVR and was already well aware of the positive outcomes, but I wanted to see it for myself – particularly how Kirilenko and Shved looked on the floor. In fact, as the games progressed it became clear that more of this write-up was going to be about those two vs. how Kevin Love’s Olympics are progressing. So let’s start with him first …
Here are some basic totals and averages across Kevin Love’s Olympic experience:
As always, Love proves that no matter how much time you give him on the court, he’ll produce. He’s received limited minutes on the star-studded team and that is absolutely, perfectly fine with me. Aside from almost having a mini-seizure when he walked off the court holding his leg in game 2 vs. China, it has been fun to watch Love participate on Team USA. It’s nice to have a horse in the race.
However, all I really want is for Love to be healthy coming out of these Olympics and to carry over the positive attitude and strong work ethic that at least some of the US team has. I’m hoping he’s a sponge and is absorbing this from Kobe, Lebron, and the like. The Timberpups need him to bring back some of that energy and discipline to build the culture of this franchise, which has been less than par for the past seven years. (I’m being kind here)
So aside from the whole, “I’m rooting for the US to win gold” angle, I have found myself being more intrigued by Team Russia and watching Kirilenko and Shved. Between the two of them, I’ve really been paying more attention to Shved, who is much more of an unknown for me, if not most. Let’s start with the easier of the two …
Kirilenko is the clear leader of Team Russia and he left little doubt in the minds of spectators with rock solid performances throughout much of the preliminary round but particularly right off the bat in Game 1. My favorite part of the box scores you see below for AK47 is the lack of zeros. He’s filling up the stat sheet and doing a little bit of everything, just like he performed in the NBA in years past.
Sure, Andrei’s another year older, but he also didn’t play the grueling NBA schedule last year. On the offensive end, Andrei’s playing above the rim and moving the ball around with teammates, including displaying the ability to still make quick cuts to the basket. On defense, he’s providing solid individual and great help defense, and has been very active game in and game out. He’s getting his hands in the passing lanes to tip balls and blocking shots. These are all elements that the Twolves desperately need from the SF position (even if there is evidence that AK47 might be better suited at the PF position).
Despite a virtual no-show against Spain, AK47 is showing very positive signs and I’m hoping that much of this carries over to this season in Minnesota. He won Euroleague MVP and Defensive POY last year and those aren’t necessarily accolades to dismiss. I expect him to be a huge upgrade for the Timberpups this coming season.
If nothing else, at least we have a sweet back tattoo and good looking wife to judge during timeouts …
I’m forever grateful that I didn’t see Team Russia’s first game live on TV and had the benefit of seeing how things looked at the end of the game and in the box score. I absolutely would have sent at least two or three tweets making unnecessary comparisons between Shved and Mike Miller – long hair, the hair band, the sleeve on the arm, and blowing the layup on his first shot attempt. (Quick aside: I hated every second of Mike Miller’s tenure with the Twolves. Moving on … immediately.)
“The Russian Rubio” has left me intrigued, in a good way. He’s pretty clearly the #2 guy on Russia’s team, though you could make a case for a few others based on individual game results. Like AK47, he’s putting in numbers across a number of different columns in the box score and seems to be another live, active body for the Timberpups. I’ve seen him guard PG’s, SG’s, and for brief moments, SF’s – I noted this in Russia’s first game, with Shved guarding Luol Deng in spot situations and holding his own on the perimeter. On the offensive end of the court, he looks very capable at both the PG and SG positions. He’s facilitating the offense and seems selfless. Shved’s making some nice bounce passes in and around the paint, but also finding alleys to kick the ball out to teammates. His court vision in transition also looks like a plus. As an added bonus, he’s making both contested and uncontested jump shots.
With all of that said, there are a few things that have caught my eye that won’t work in the NBA as often or at all. Similar to Rubio, there is a level of flair to his game. He’ll need to tone that down a bit, or at the very least, begin to recognize when it isn’t needed (or desired). He’s a little out of control sometimes, which is heavily related to his flair. Finally, I started to notice in Game 2 vs. China that he likes to leave his feet too frequently to make passes on the offensive end. He’ll turn the ball over a lot if he can’t fix this last point, as NBA athletes are too fast and too good to not get their hands on those passes or force him into bad decisions while in the air (shooting, throwing the ball away, or coming down with it and traveling).
Those are all items that are very fixable. I’m more concerned about what happened, and what didn’t, in the game vs. Spain. Shved only played seven minutes in the game, spending the vast majority of it on the bench. His coach probably saw the same level of defense that I noticed on the TV and that wasn’t much. Aside from that, what I happened to notice was Shved sitting on the end of the bench and it seemed like he was sulking a bit. The game itself was very close and came down to the wire. It would have been nice to see him leading the cheers on the sideline when his teammates hit the shots to bring them back into the game. That didn’t seem to be the case. Hopefully, that was an outlier. (I didn’t really notice this happening in the next game vs. Australia, where Shved only played seventeen minutes.)
Despite those eye catchers, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Shved’s overall performance. His confidence is much needed, particularly as a backup SG and at PG until Rubio returns. I think the Timberpups have found another positive contributor to the roster for the coming season and someone that very well could be part of Adelman’s regular rotation. I can absolutely see Shved playing meaningful minutes for the Wolves and be a part of All-Star weekend … on All-Star Friday in the young guns game they play.
Here’s Shved’s (pretty impressive) totals and averages in the Olympics:
Moving towards the knockout rounds, all I’m really looking for is positive contributions from each of our Timberpups and good health. It would be nice to see Shved get back on track a bit and show a little bit more in the latter stages of Russia’s games. If we get to a gold medal game between the US and Russia, there’s a good chance that a “game day diary” is up on this site shortly thereafter.
What have you thought of the games thus far? Anything catch your eye on the future Timberpups?