Andrei Kirilenko had his introductory press conference this week. It was actually a conference call. In it, AK discussed things ranging from his acceptance of the possibility of coming off the bench as well as his sweetheart deal with the Brooklyn Nets.
The half life the noise surrounding Kirilenko’s contract in the vacuum that is August in the NBA is about a Pek signing. There will be regenerated generations of spinoffs concerning this.
But never mind the Russian rumors, I have yet to see a mention as to what a KG-AK frontcourt does to the iso-Joe, D-Will chuck-fest identity that was a first-round out to the Rose-less Bulls last year. Brook Lopez is no Dwight Howard, but put all that defense out there and LeBron better hope his jumper’s on.
Anyway. From the New York Daily News:
“I can’t do anything with what people think,” Kirilenko said in a conference call on Thursday. “I’m coming from the facts. I can’t change it. I can’t control it. . . . Those type of rumors I can’t control. And I guess it comes from the history because of the Russian KGB. It makes it a little funny. What can I do?”
The reality, according to Kirilenko, was he opted out of a one-year, $10 million deal with the hope of re-signing long-term with the Timberwolves, only to discover Minnesota GM Flip Saunders wasn’t interested.
So he signed with the Nets for about $3 million per season, and the 32-year-old forward said it had nothing to do with shady deals or the work of the Russian underworld.
“I understand the money is not that great; it’s not what I could have made. But if you take a look at the situation, I’m not sure if 10 years ago I would have taken this,” said Kirilenko, who has earned more than $100 million in his NBA career. “But right now, it’s really the best option possible — to take a legit chance to win the trophy. I’m not saying we’re going to win it. It’s going to take a lot of work. But it’s a great chance and it’s the first time in my career where I’m basically starting the season when I know we have a chance to win the whole thing.”
After 11 seasons in the NBA and six playoff appearances, Kirilenko is claiming this as his first championship opportunity — speaking to his belief in a roster that will cost Prokhorov nearly $200 million (for just one season).
As the main backup to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Kirilenko gives the Nets a total of 36 combined All-Star appearances split between six players on the roster. Kirilenko averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 51% last season for Minnesota.
“It’s a privilege in the NBA because not a lot of teams have that kind of depth,” Kirilenko said of the Nets. “Usually a team has three or four superstars at a max, but here you can have seven or eight guys who can really play at the highest level possible against any starting lineup in the NBA.”
Kirilenko also has a history with the franchise’s two most important people. For more than five seasons, he teamed with Deron Williams in Utah, which was capped by their run to the Western Conference finals in 2007. Williams was at his best during those years under Jerry Sloan, and the point guard reportedly tried to recruit Kirilenko to the Nets before last season. The two vacationed together last summer in Russia. “He’s knows my best and weak spots, and vice-versa,” Kirilenko said. “I know his best spots. So it’s going to be great chemistry.”
As a teenager, Kirilenko played for a team in Moscow owned by Prokhorov. He said he envisioned himself playing for the Nets once Prokhorov took over in 2010, and eventually it took a $7 million pay cut to happen.
For Kirilenko, playing in Brooklyn, home of Russian enclave Brighton Beach, was part of the attraction. No side deals necessary.
“It’s kind of reminding me of playing (at) home,” he said.