The Russian culture is not one of smiles — the Moscow Times traces it back to the Cold War and before, noting that generations were raised about how Americans had insincere smiles. The stereotypical Russian disposition comes off as a little more austere.
Alexey Shved is Russian, but the Minnesota backup point guard plays on a team with two guys who have an outward exuberance for playing the game — Ricky Rubio and Ronny Turiaf.
This preseason, those two are trying to get Shved to open up and have a little fun reports the Star Tribune.
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.”
Shved may not be that expressive naturally — although he seems to be with his hair — but also likely feels a little more isolated. Last season he was tight with fellow Russian (and CSKA Moscow teammate) Andrei Kirilenko, but now AK-47 is in Brooklyn. Shved may withdraw a little naturally.
Shved showed flashes of great playmaking skill and some creativity his rookie season. He also got forced into a much bigger role that he was likely ready for thanks to the wave of injuries that washed over Minnesota last season. This season, with a healthy Rubio, he should play a more limited role that better suits him.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman says in the same story he wants Rubio to work harder off the ball, he’s not so concerned about the smiles. Makes sense as Shved has had the ball in his hands more before he came to the NBA so playing off it is a new experienced.
Either way, Shved could become one of the better backup point guards in the league. If he’s having fun.