Alexey Shved:
I Enjoy Playing With Rice

December MVP Alexey Shved gave an interview to VTB-League.com and Sport-Express.

After signing a big contract with Moscow Region over the summer, Shved was guaranteed to draw a ton of attention from the Russian media. Fans and journalists alike have followed his performances closely, celebrating his successes and gloating, at times, over failures. The 27-year-old guard needed some time to adjust to Rimas Kurtinaitis's system and occasionally struggled on the court, but he shut everyone up in December with his terrific play.

Shved put on a show against Lokomotiv-Kuban on December 7. The double-overtime game was packed with unexpected twists and turns, ending in a Khimki win. Shved finished the contest with outstanding numbers: 32 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. Yes, he also committed seven turnovers, but for a point guard who played 42 minutes, that's not a terrible number. Even more impressive in such a close game: Khimki was +30 against Lokomotiv with Shved on the court. The Russian guard carried his team against the Railwaymen, forcing everyone to stop talking about his salary and focus on his play.

Through the month of December, Shved averaged 18.8 points, 6.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, while Khimki went 4-0.

- We did have a great December, - admits Shved. - We made it to the Top 16 of the Euroleague and didn't lose in the VTB League. The results are great and it's encouraging that we've improved since the start of the season. Of course, we still haven't reached our full potential, but we are playing much better.

- Specifically, you and Tyrese Rice have become more effective together. Are you more comfortable with each other now?
- I like playing with Tyrese. And, as far as I know, he likes playing with me too. It's easy for us to understand each other on the court. And it's always good for the team when we're on the court together. At times, he can take over the game and carry the team. Then I jump in and allow him to take a supporting role and get recharged. Overall, there are a lot of guys on the team that can get hot at any moment. That's what makes us dangerous.

Rice and I have an identical feel for the game, so it's never a problem for us to be on the court together. At the start of the season, we simply weren't starting games together that often. But in December, coach started using us together more often. The team has done well, so it must mean that our play together has been productive.

- But there have been some setbacks. You've lost a few tough games in the Euroleague and needed overtime to beat Tsmoki in Minsk. Why have there been some letdowns?
- I don't think I'm saying anything new, but we still don't have enough consistency over the course of a game. We can play well or even extremely well for 37, 38 minutes... But just a few minutes of confusion on defense or rushing the offense can undo all of our efforts. The important thing is that the pieces are gradually fitting together. Our game is growing more mature and I don't doubt that we'll continue to get better over the course of the season.

- As a point guard, do you have to adjust to the changes in the frontcourt? Davis is often hurt and the team is searching for a backup center. Anatoly Kashirov was invited on a trial basis and now you've signed Dmitry Sokolov.
- Paul is a strong player, but he's been limited by his health and often gets injured. Dima has only played against Kalev, but already showed that he can be very effective with Khimki. He scored, rebounded and played tough on defense. We can win with Paul and with Dima.

- In addition to CSKA, which opponent in the VTB United League looks especially tough?
- I liked Lokomotiv. The team started the season strong. They've got an excellent roster and an excellent coach.

- Without question, the showdown between Khimki and Loko has been the most exciting game of the season and you provided the biggest highlights. After that game, it appears you've made the final adjustments to playing in Moscow Region.
- That game definitely helped, though I was already extremely confident in myself. I'll continue to believe in myself no matter the circumstances. Of course, when you play well and the team wins, you feel good. It's nice when the coach and your teammates are happy. But getting the win is all that matters, not how much I scored. Nobody wants to score a lot of points and lose the game.

- Has the start of the season matched expectations?
- I worked out a lot in Belgorod during the summer and never once thought about how long it would take to adjust. I only had one thought: keep getting better. That feeling hasn't left me during the season. I feel like I can play better. I hope you'll see it soon.

- Enisey guard Denis Zakharov's first coach is also your father. Are you surprised that he's been scoring in double digits as a 21-year-old, despite starting the season in the Superleague and switching clubs?
- We actually practiced together in Belgorod during the summer. So it wasn't any surprise to me that he can play. He's smart and hard-working, so everything should work out for him during his career.

- Some people think that his style of play is similar to yours, both when it comes to skillset and attacking the basket.
- Well, we were taught the game by the same person (laughs). So it's not surprising there are similarities. Personally, I'm very happy for Denis and it's nice that someone has compared him with me. He's great. The most important thing is to keep getting better.

- Khimki is determined to battle for a quarterfinal spot in a very tricky Euroleague Top 16 group. Are you worried that playing in two leagues will hurt the team's position in the VTB United League?
- We're in great shape, so I don't see any reasons for concern. Our coach knows perfectly well how to spread out the playing time. At times, he makes practice easier. Other times, he ups the intensity. We trust him completely.

- What's it like to return home after playing in the NBA?
- To be honest, I've had mixed emotions. All of my friends and family are here and I love Russia. It's my homeland. But the basketball is different and life isn't quite as comfortable. In the US, you don't even have to get off the couch. Anything can be delivered to your house at any time. It's a little more difficult here. And the teams have different conditions. You fly charter in the NBA, which is a huge plus. I liked the schedule there better. You practice in the morning, then you have the whole day free. In Europe, it's normal to come to the gym twice a day. Don't think I'm complaining! I like my work and I like my team. But there are some other factors.

- You love to attack the basket, but basketball in Europe is a lot more restricted than it is in the NBA. Does that have an impact on how much you enjoy the game?
- If you love basketball as much as I do, you can enjoy the game anywhere (smiles).