Jan 2, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) watches the action from the bench during the second half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Timberwolves 106-84. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Andrei Kirilenko Opts In

Good news for Wolves fans that need good news. Lang Greene over at Hoopsworld is saying Andrei Kirilenko isn’t interested in using his player-option at this season’s end to opt-out of his 2-year deal a year early and explore a contract that could pay more than the 10.2 million he is to be paid next season.

The eleven year NBA veteran says he’s absolutely certain he won’t be exercising the player option at season’s end and is intending on remaining in Minnesota.

“I’m going to stay in the NBA for sure,” Kirilenko told HOOPSWORLD. “There is no doubt about it. I like Minnesota and I like [head coach] Rick Adelman.”

“But we really need to get everyone back in the lineup,” Kirilenko added while admitting his frustration with Minnesota’s assortment of injuries this season. “It’s hard to play this way.”

“So far I think we’re doing a pretty good job staying alive,” Kirilenko said. “It’s pretty tough to play when you lose your head coach, then you lose so many players. It’s tough to play that way. Another problem is the rotation is always different [due to the injuries]. You get used to playing with a certain lineup, guys you feel comfortable but it is hard when the rotation changes every time. All we can do is to continue playing.”

“I think it’s the nature of the NBA because the season is long and very intense,” Kirilenko added. “There are a lot of possibilities that guys will get hurt. Unfortunately I think we’re a little bit over the limit but we can’t do anything about it. I think guys are doing a pretty good job fighting hard. We can’t look back so we have to stay positive in this case.”

This is a sigh of relief shouldn’t be understated. Having a player of Kirilenko’s caliber be conscious of the Wolves struggles this year, possess that warrior-mentality of gutting it out, and still have the presence of mind to see the big picture and the potential that still exists on the roster to say he’ll stick around. (10.2 million would make it easier for me to see the big picture, as well.)

The relief is finding Kirilenko’s replacement isn’t the front burner issue it would otherwise be. Aside from Portland’s Nicolas Batum (been there) or Brooklyn’s Gerald Wallace (too brittle), the number of versatile small forwards with defensive reputations as stellar as AK’s is miniscule. Greene expounds Andrei’s virtues:

Kirilenko is the Timberwolves’ third leading scorer (13.6) and rebounder (6.9) behind Love and Pekovic but ranks as the team’s leader in steals (1.6) and blocks (1.2).

The flip side is that next year, should the Wolves encounter anything close to the injuries they have this year, they will have Kirilenko’s contract as an asset to move along with whatever sized pieces that should need moving at that time, should this all end poorly OR things go well and AK decides to sign a moderately priced 3-year deal to ride this thing out.

See? Good news.

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Tags: Andrei Kirilenko Minnesota Timberwolves Rumor Central

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