Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans have been waiting for three months and finally, the time has come to see Khimki Moscow Region superstar Alexey Shved back in action.
Shved went down in a game against Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 9 of the regular season with a broken finger and missed 14 games in which Khimki went 6-8. Before his injury, Shved was playing some of the best basketball of his career, averaging 25.3 points on 40.2% three-point shooting, 7.4 assists and 1.8 steals for a performance index rating of 25.9. He still ranks 13th overall in three-point shots made (39) despite missing two-thirds of the season. Shved returns for his team's home game against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, against whom he averaged 26.5 points per game last season. Expect Shved to be ready to deliver now that his injury is in the past. "You know, I always try to play hard and help the team. I did that before the injury and I hope I can keep doing that now," Shved told EuroLeague.net. "We will see tomorrow how it will be, but I always try to show my best basketball, every time."
Hello, Alexey — welcome back! You have been practicing for a while, and everyone wants to know. Are you 100% ready for your return?
"First of all, thank you. Yes, I think so. I really want to play and have been practicing every day, first without the team, and then with the team for the last two weeks. I am happy to come back and ready to play again."
You had the Euroleague's highest scoring average in 15 years when you were hurt. Were those first eight EuroLeague games the best stretch of your career?
"You know, I always try to play hard and help the team. I did that before the injury and I hope I can keep doing that now. We will see tomorrow how it will be, but I always try to show my best basketball, every time."
"I always try to show my best basketball, every time."
You have been out for three months. What exactly was your finger injury and how was the recovery process?
"There was a problem because when I broke my finger, an injury like this usually needs surgery, but we tried to go without the surgery. This is why it took a little bit longer. Now, my finger feels much better and the doctors said I can play and join the team. I am happy to come back; I am not happy that it took such a long time, but that cannot be changed now. It is time for me to enjoy playing basketball."
What did you miss most while injured, and how supportive were Khimki fans and the club's organization?
"I missed my teammates and, of course, playing basketball. I missed our fans, too. I am just enjoying coming back and having the chance to play again this week. I just want to play!"
Khimki was 6-8 without you, despite also losing Anthony Gill. How much character has the team shown in such difficult circumstances?
"Like you said, it was not just only me, because we also missed Anthony, too. It is hard to play without two key players for such a long time, but my teammates played hard and tried to show their best basketball. We almost came back together, Anthony is the only player that is out and we have the most important three months in front of us. We just need to win every game and for sure, we want to be in the EuroLeague and VTB League playoffs."
You come back for a new coach, Rimas Kurtinaitis, who was a great shooter in his playing days. Does it help you to have a coach who understands a shooter's mindset?
"For sure, he was a great player before and everybody knows him and how he played. We worked together around three years ago, so I know exactly what he wants to do. We will see. It is the first game we play together since, I think, 2015. We will see how it goes!"
You return to what is essentially a must-win situation, at home against Milan this week. How much pressure is there on Khimki to return to the playoffs?
"Well, we still have chances and need to play hard, every time. We have a few more games left and will try to win all of them. I know it is hard, but this is what we will try to do."
You averaged 26.5 points per game against Milan last season. Is it a team you like to play against?
"We always go step by step and never think about the next games. We always focus on the next game and are preparing to beat Milan. Once we play against them, we will think about the next one. We just need to be focused and play hard, all together. Mike James is a really great player who will be ready to do his best to help his team win tomorrow. We play at home, in front of our fans, and we will try to stop him and Milan, too. It will be a really cool game and I hope our fans will enjoy it."
"We have a few more games left and will try to win all of them."
You opened a restaurant at a Moscow food court, Mac & Cheese. Where did that idea come from and why that name? Do you serve Mac & Cheese only, or are there other specialties?
"I played in the NBA, I saw that they ate a lot of mac & cheese. This is really good for the athlete, to eat macaroni or spaghetti before the games, it gives you energy, so my wife and I decided to open it in a food court in Moscow. We want to open more restaurants in other food courts. People really like it, so we will see how it is going in one month or so. We serve mac & cheese with different toppings — bacon, meatballs, chicken, steak... and there is also a kids' menu. You are welcome to try it when you come to Moscow!"
Definitely! One final question: you also turned 30 since your injury. At that milestone in your life, what are your biggest basketball dreams going forward?
"The biggest dream is to keep playing basketball, that is for sure. It is all I can say. Of course, I have some basketball dreams, but I don't want to talk about them because if I do, they won't come true!"