Timberwolves point guard Alexey Shved is midway through his first NBA season after five years in the Russian league. He recently gave an interview with Sports.ru, one of Russia's leading sports news sites. Alexander Chernykh of the basketball blog Rush'n Hoops translated it. What follows are 10 fascinating insights into American life, the NBA rookie experience and genius of Allen Iverson.
People in Minneapolis are nice and not annoying.
Q: Don’t you get bored here, having moved from Moscow? Minneapolis is such a quiet city.
A: Actually, I already got used to everything. I feel comfortable, I like it here… I had my good share of fun in the past, so I can be leading a quiet life now. Of course I knew that people like basketball here, but I couldn’t imagine to what extent… It’s even hard to explain, how good it feels to be playing here. Fans would approach you, ask for a photo, they talk in a nice manner. Here, there are no people who would annoy you and ask some nonsense questions. Everyone is good and nice.
He once went to practice in his pajamas but it wasn't hazing.
Q: Are there any rituals for welcoming the rookies?
A: It depends on a team. We don’t have such a ritual. They only gave me a pink rucksack; it’s lying in my car. Some of the guys had toy baby strollers next to their lockers. All in all, we have a young team. Kirya is the main veteran. So everyone makes jokes on everyone and there’s no rookie hazing. Once, I went to the practice wearing my pajamas. I was warm outside; I just put on my pajama pants and went to the gym. Everybody was laughing and saying it was cool.
Eminem is his namesake.
Q: Did you get a nickname in the States?
A: They call me Alexy, we’ve taught some of the Americans how to pronounce Aleshka. They also call me Slim, like Slim Shady.
Everyone in America loves beer and donuts.
Q: You are a fan of The Simpsons and of Homer Simpson in particular. What in America made you recall some of the scenes from the cartoon?
A: Well, that everybody loves donuts here, and I eat them too. People mostly drink beer and not stronger drinks, exactly like in The Simpsons.
He misses his hair.
Q: Why did you decide to cut your hair only in America, even though in CSKA [Moscow] you ignored whenever someone even hinted about it?
A: I wanted to change something. And now I already miss my hair. I don’t care what people on the outside advice me to do. I only listen to my relatives and those who are close, and they would always explain it to me about what I should do. If I want it, I will grow my hair again. It doesn’t make me play worse.
In the NBA, teetotaling is optional.
Q: Are there any restrictions set by the club concerning food and alcohol?
A: Nothing special. If you want to drink some beer, nobody will be against it. What’s important is to know your measure and to do well in practice.
But none of the Timberwolves are lushes.
Q: What if one comes to practice when hung over?
A: Such thing didn’t happen yet.
He failed his driving test.
Q: Do you do everything the right way while driving too?
A: I was taking a test here to get an American driving license. I didn’t pass it on the first try, because it’s really strict. If you forget to use the turn light – that’s it, you failed the test. Probably I got used to driving here by now. They don’t stop you here unless you violate the driving rules, and I was never pulled over. If I go to Moscow now, I’ll be in a state of shock for the first few days.
He can't wait to get his braces off.
Q: You wear braces -- did you make a special mouthpiece because of it?
A: I don’t wear a mouthpiece at all. Three times in my career I took a very strong shot in the teeth, but I can’t wear a mouthpiece -- it makes it difficult to breathe. And I’m taking my brackets off in three months. After the three years that I’ve been wearing it, I just can’t wait.
Allen Iverson is a genius. [Ed's Note: He's right.]
Q: You said that your idol was Allen Iverson, an anti-basketball player as a lot of people think, one who would only play for himself. Did your taste change with age or not?
A: Allen Iverson is a genius. Yes, he didn’t get his ring, but he was able to outplay the entire opponent’s team. I think he is the most skilled NBA player of all time.
Shved is averaging 10.9 points and 4.7 assists in 40 games so far this season.