Andrei Kirilenko explains his decision to choose Brooklyn
Shocked just like everybody else by Kirilenko’s decision to pick the Brooklyn Nets and terms of the deal, I couldn’t wait for comments from the player himself. After the deal was officially announced, Kirilenko eagerly talked with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express.
Here is my translation:
A couple weeks ago, after you didn’t pick up your contract option with Minnesota to stay there for another season, you said that you wanted to sign a multi-year deal with one of the clubs. But your contract with Brooklyn is the same, “1 + 1″. Why?
I had a lot of thoughts about the contract length. I talked to my wife and my kids. And I came to a conclusion that I didn’t know what I was chasing. Because, I got a unique chance to play for a team that is a real title contender. To step on the court with stars like Pierce and Garnett – one can only dream about it! This is a chance to join a crusade. This is the first time in my 12 seasons in the NBA that I will be playing for a team which is now one of the main title contenders.
And still, you walked away from 10 millions for one season in Minnesota and agreed to just 3 millions for the same amount of time in Brooklyn!
The financial part of the question really was important. We have discussed it too, for a long time. And we came to a conclusion that you can’t make all the money in the world. And in the NBA, if you want to achieve a serious goal, sometimes you have to sacrifice something.
Just one day ago it was in the news that San Antonio wanted to acquire you. That is a 2013 NBA finalist, by the way. And there was a different sum of money mentioned there – 8 millions per season. Why didn’t it suit you?
I am grateful for all the teams that were interested in signing me. There were plenty of them – believe me, I had options to choose from.
Did you consider staying in Minnesota?
A year ago I was planning a completely different scenario. I thought I would stay in Minnesota for the rest of my career. But these are the NBA realities: things often don’t go the way you expect them to. The previous general manager has left the team, and the situation turned 180 degrees. I don’t blame anyone that it happened. It’s just that other general manager decided to place his bet on other players. All that said, I stick to my opinion that Rick Adelman is one of the best coaches in the league. And the chemistry within the team was amazing. But it just happened that the team went for a younger roster. So all that I can do now is root for Minnesota, just like I do for another team that I played for, Utah. I have left a part of my soul and my heart in those teams.
And still, why Brooklyn?
Of course it was an option for quite some time – from the moment Mikhail Prokhorov became the owner. What really influenced my decision now was the trade with Boston. It’s obvious that it has been done in order to make a serious run at winning an NBA title.
Can you call it the deciding factor?
Yes. In addition to that, I am joining a strong team like that not as a veteran who is only able to play for five minutes, but as a player who is capable of helping the team. There’s a competitive fire, the motivation. It is really hard to constantly find a motivation when you are playing for a team that doesn’t make the playoffs. I know that it’s not going to be easy in Brooklyn. But at the same time, it is really interesting to see what this project will become. To see how several players of this caliber will manage to fit together.
How important it is that Prokhorov is the Nets’ owner?
Of course it is one of the main pluses for me. I know him for a long time, going back to the period when I was playing for CSKA before I first moved to the NBA. You can’t say that we are friends. But we have a good relationship and we support each other. It is great that our guy, a Russian, is so interested in basketball. When he became the Nets’ owner it created a platform – thanks to that, NBA scouts are paying closer attention to Russian players now.
A move to Brooklyn for you is also a reunion with Deron Williams who you played with in Utah for a few seasons.
I talked to him on Thursday and he was persuading me to join the Nets. Williams is one of the best point guards in the NBA, and now he has to organize a team which is stacked at every position. This is no joke when a single team has seven or eight players who know how to play quality basketball.
Another former teammate of yours could have joined Brooklyn – Kyle Korver. But as it became known today, he decided to stay in Atlanta.
It’s a pity, of course. That would have been great! I love Kyle and respect him – as a good teammate, as a player. I still have fond memories of those times in Utah – Memo, Boozer, Deron, Korver, Millsap. Nostalgic! By the way, family question has also influenced my decision: it is great for my kids to reunite with Deron’s kids – they used to be friends. All in all, there is a set of small but warm and good moments that influenced the decision. I think I want to live in New York for a bit. During all my time in the NBA my family has never lived in a big American city. And it is also interesting for me to try and play in one.
Is it interesting to play for Jason Kidd, a coach who was a player himself just a couple months ago?
I have already talked to him. I congratulated him on his appointment. But I called him ‘coach’ and he replied, ‘I still can’t get used to it’. I think it is even a bigger challenge for him than for any of the players. But he is lucky to have a roster like this – he will have to coach players that almost don’t require to be coached! Just look, the current roster has more than 100 years of NBA experience combined! Many players have a career longer than 10 seasons. It will be very easy to explain something to players like that.
Still, doesn’t it bother you that the team is led by a rookie coach?
It is hard for me to evaluate Kidd – I didn’t have a single practice with his team. I only know him as a fantastic point guard. Probably one of the five best in NBA history. It also adds confidence that former point guards do great. Doc Rivers became an NBA champion with Boston, Avery Johnson made NBA Finals with Dallas and Golden State improved rapidly when Mark Jackson arrived.
How well do you know Kidd?
We have known each other for a long time, but we never really communicated on a personal level. Just said ‘hi’ and ‘bye’. We have been meeting since my early NBA seasons when he was a Nets player himself. I remember the way he played for each of his teams, probably other than Phoenix where he started his career.
Doesn’t a company so full of stars scare you?
You can’t scare me with that – I have met each of them on the court many times. Take Garnett, we know each other well for a very long time. By the way, he is the guy who taught me how to play dice – American rules, everything. It happened a long time ago, back in 2006. We were getting ready for the season together in Las Vegas, and on one of the days Kevin, along with Chauncey Billups, has taught me all the nuances.
At the same time you should understand that on a team which is so full of star players, where Paul Pierce is playing at your position, you will almost certainly have to come off the bench.
Well this can’t possibly scare me, that’s for sure! This is my philosophy: it is absolutely not important where you start the game – on the court or on the bench. It is much more important to be as effective as possible during the game. We have touched upon this topic with Kidd. He said I shouldn’t be worried – in any case, I will be playing. Brooklyn has become a veteran team, and extended rotation during games is inevitable. So there should be no problem regarding playing time. Though I don’t try to get inside a coach’s mind. Having played in the NBA for so many seasons, I know it perfectly how to keep myself in shape. And sometimes you can be more useful coming off the bench. Personally, I am confident that I will get enough playing time. And why even bring me on the team if it isn’t so?
I have a feeling that Brooklyn will be very similar to last year’s New York – which also had a lot of veterans who played great during the regular season but didn’t have much success in the playoffs.
I don’t agree. I think it makes more sense to make a comparison with the Lakers. But Brooklyn has a much more balanced roster. Los Angeles didn’t have a deep bench like this – basically it was just four superstars. In the end, all Lakers managed to do is reach the playoffs.
From the moment your agreement with Brooklyn became known, it fueled gossip. First, the fans on the internet commented that Kirilenko had agreed to take a pay cut because Prokhorov would make up for it in Russia. And then a few NBA general managers voiced their unhappiness and asked the league’s office to start an investigation regarding possible under-the-table deal between Russian player and owner. What would you say about these accusations?
Just one thing: it is laughable. It is strictly forbidden by the NBA rules, and the league’s office keeps the situation under great control. It is silly not just to talk about it – even to think of it. Masha and I have argued what is better: to go after more money or play where you want and to try and reach a serious goal. In my career, I have made a decent sum of money. Indecent even. (Laughs). And to not use a chance that the Nets provide would not be right. The times when I could have a desire to make as much as possible have passed. By the way, our family debates were quire serious. But after weighing on everything it became clear: the sum of the factors made Brooklyn a clear winner.
Kirilenko often said that he doesn’t just make decisions alone, and his wife Masha is always involved in a major way – which provoked criticizm, fair or unfair, from Russian fans whenever AK-47 missed an international tournament. So it is easy to see that, after pay cut became inevitable, Kirilenko had to sell Masha on the place where the family could move, and the Nets could offer the most.
Kirilenko himself considered the Brooklyn option from the very beginning, when there was still chance of getting big money offers and it was a long shot.
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