Among the four undefeated teams through the first two rounds of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season can be found three of the past four continental champions… and Khimki Moscow Region.
The heart of that Khimki squad is guard Alexey Shved, who is now in his third season with the club and eighth in the competition. Before the season, Shved further committed himself to Khimki’s future when he signed a contract extension through 2020. Shved spoke to EuroLeague.net over the weekend about his team’s strong start to the season, his role on the team and much more. "Sometimes I just want to be a good guy. It's important not just to be a good player, but to be a good guy also off of the court," Shved said in summing up part of his philosophy. "If you want to win, everybody needs to stay together and have fun off the court."
Congratulations on a 2-0 record. You could not have hoped for a better start to the season.
"Thankyou. It’s a good start for us. The tournament is different now, so every game is important. We just need to keep playing the same way."
From the side it looks like you are having as much fun as ever playing this season. Do you agree?
"Yes. Like I said, the tournament has changed and every game is interesting for the players and for the fans, too. So it's much better. I played in the NBA before, so playing two, three four games a week is normal for me. The EuroCup is a different level, too, where we played just once a week. We just need to be ready."
You not only play a brand of basketball that is fun, but over the years we hear stories that you are a fun teammate to hang out with off the court. Are you a funny guy or a practical joker in the locker room?
"Yeah. You know, sometimes I just want to be a good guy. It's important not just to be a good player, but to be a good guy also off of the court. If you want to win, everybody needs to stay together and have fun off the court. So it's important I think. I joke around and talk to the guys. I try to help the guys who came for the first time to play in Europe, especially the first time to play in Russia. I like to have fun with the fans too, to play with the kids after the games, stuff like that."
Since you have been at Khimki, you have been the marquee player and team leader. How would you describe your role as a leader?
"I feel good because the last couple of years I’ve played as a leader, but I would say that I'm only one of the guys who is a leader on this team. We have a lot of guys, especially this year, who came from the NBA or China or [big teams] in Europe and we have a great team here too. One guy can win a game, but he can’t win a tournament. So we just need to stay together; one day one scores and another day the other one. We just have to play together."
Before the season, you signed a contract extension to remain with the club through 2020, which will mark five seasons as a Khimki player. What is most special about playing for this club?
"You know, for me what’s special is the atmosphere at the club. The people here do everything for the players; they help at any moment if you call them. You can call during the night or something and they will help every time. Plus we have good fans here and I am in Russia too. Altogether, it’s a lot of things."
You have already been a part of some great team accomplishments, including winning the EuroLeague with CSKA Moscow and medals with the Russian national team. Now at age 28, where do you stand in your career and what are your main goals for this and the next few seasons?
"Of course like any player who plays in the EuroLeague, I want to win the EuroLeague. When I was young and playing in CSKA, I was young and not really playing a lot of time, a lot of minutes there. So I just want to do my job here and also help to try to win the EuroLeague."
Thomas Robinson was a late addition to the squad, but has absolutely dominated inside since arriving. What do you like about playing with him?
"He is a good player. He is really athletic. He plays both sides – offense and defense – and he’s a good guy off the court. Like I said, this year we have good guys as players and guys off the court. We played against each other before and we have a lot of former 76ers players here on the team, so with some of them I have played together on the same team and played against him. I remember Robinson played on a couple of teams against me in the NBA, too.
"Some players, we talk a little bit before [they sign]. A lot of guys I know, we have played together or like Stefan Markovic, a long time ago, 10-12 years ago we played on junior national teams and junior clubs. Every time I am ready to help bring new teammates."
Khimki changed coaches over the summer. What has Coach Bartzokas brought to the team?
"Coach, everybody knows him. He won the EuroLeague a few years ago. He was the coach in Krasnodar, with Loko, so he knows how to take a team to the Final Four, the playoffs. And like he said, we just need to take it game by game and we will see what happens. He is a good person and a great coach. We talk a lot, not just me, but with all the players. He is ready to talk to the guys anytime and we really respect it when we can talk to the coach like that."
You come from a family of basketball players. What impact have your parents and sisters had on your career?
"Family is No. 1. This very important. They all help me: My mom, dad, my sisters, nephews. My wife always goes to the games and after the games they help me and tell me how I can be better. And for sure I listen to them because I know they want what’s best for me. So for me this is very important.”
It is true that you and your wife have started a side business to produce high-quality basketball apparel in Russia? Can you tell us about that?
“It’s not really a big business. I just want to give to our fans, to the guys who love basketball, some basketball stuff. I cannot say it’s a business, for me it’s more for fun. I don’t really spend much time on it. Sometimes I sit there and I help them, but more times it’s my wife, and our friends help, too."
This is your eighth EuroLeague season, so you really have been everywhere and seen it all. What are your favorite places to play and cities to visit?
"Everywhere I like to play! I like Greece, I like Spain, I like Serbia, Lithuania. Everywhere, because I like to play where there are full gyms with fans, it doesn’t matter if we’re home or away. And this just makes me play better, the atmosphere is great. I like to go all around Europe. This year we played in Istanbul with the national team and also the EuroLeague Final Four there maybe five years ago, so I can say this is my favorite gym. The atmosphere is great there, like everywhere in Europe."