Wolves finalize signing of Russian guard

Published 9:01 am Thursday, July 26, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — The latest European addition to the Minnesota Timberwolves will be able to use a deep backcourt to ease his transition to the NBA.

That’s the view of Timberwolves general manager David Kahn, who in announcing Alexey Shved’s signing Wednesday took pains to make clear the 23-year-old Russian will not be asked to be a consistent producer for the team during his rookie season.

“This year in particular I think it’s important to not put too much pressure on him,” Kahn said.

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Though point guard Ricky Rubio is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Wolves still have Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea at point guard, plus Malcolm Lee and whoever else is acquired over the rest of yet another active offseason. The 6-foot-5 Shved is a shooting guard first, but he can move to the point guard spot, too. Kahn, who first saw Shved play last year, was taken by Shved’s creativity with the ball.

Shved spent the last six seasons playing professionally in Russia and for his country’s national team. Most recently, he scored a game-high 22 points to go with six assists to help Russia beat Nigeria for a spot in the London Olympics tournament. The Summer Games begin this weekend.

But the NBA is always where he’s wanted to ultimately be. On a conference call with reporters, using his agent as a translator, Shved said he’s played the sport since he was 6 or 7 years old, remembering his coach and father, Victor, bringing home VHS tapes of NBA games for him to watch.

He was hooked.

“I told my mom and dad that this is my wish to play like the guys on TV,” Shved said.

He watched more-modern video of the Timberwolves last season, before he knew of their interest in him. Like anyone else, he saw a stark difference in the quality of play before and after Rubio’s injury.

“What I like about the team is the players are very young,” Shved said, adding: “I think that it will be a good fit for me.”

He’s been listed around 160 pounds, unquestionably thin. Kahn said he wasn’t worried.

“When he arrives we can make him stronger, but there are other skinny players in our league who’ve been successful,” Kahn said. “I have very high hopes for him.”

Shved’s signing was rather anticlimactic, considering the news of his agreement has been out for weeks. There is still plenty else going on in the front office with the roster, most notably a three-team trade between Minnesota, Phoenix and New Orleans.

According to a person familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because it’s pending completion of routine logistical matters, the Wolves will send first-round bust Wes Johnson and a first-round draft pick to the Suns and cash to the Hornets.

The Wolves will get guard Jerome Dyson, two second-round draft picks and get back retiring center Brad Miller’s contract from the Hornets that allows them to create more space under the salary cap.

The Wolves also have an agreement pending with guard Brandon Roy. Kahn said he expects to finalize Roy’s contract soon but declined to comment on any other moves, including the pending trade or the reported interest in Andrei Kirilenko.

The 31-year-old Kirilenko spent last season in Russia after 10 years with the Utah Jazz. The 6-foot-9 small forward averaged 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game during that time. Shved said he hasn’t spoken with his fellow Russian national team member about Kirilenko’s interest in Minnesota, preferring to keep his focus on the Olympics.

All-Star Kevin Love has more than once voiced his preference for urgency in building a winning team around him, and Kahn was asked on the conference call about Love’s outlook.

“I think sometimes Kevin thinks that he’s the only person here who wants to make the playoffs next year. I think we all are motivated to do so. It’s just the right time,” Kahn said, adding: “Provided we stay healthy we think that next season, that’s the year where this is within our reach.”

Kahn also suggested Love’s perceived impatience is connected to losing so many games with the Wolves at the beginning of his career.

“He was born into a situation of a team that was many years away, as opposed to other players in effect born into many more advantageous situations,” Kahn said. “I share his urgency but only in a healthy way. Everything we do is in keeping with making this team a competitive team, not only for next season but for seasons beyond.”