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Andrei Kirilenko talks about his first Brooklyn Nets start and double-double

February 24, 2014 8 comments

The Brooklyn Nets have won on the road against the Lakers – 108-102 last night. It was Andrei Kirilenko’s 25th game with his new team and the first one he started. Right after the game Kirilenko talked with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express.

Here’s my quick translation:

When did you learn that you would be put into the starting five against the Lakers?

During the team meeting in the morning.

What was your reaction?

(Laughs) Didn’t I ever start?

On the Brooklyn Nets, never.

Today there were reasons for this. First, Shaun Livingston got a minor injury. Second, we missed Kevin Garnett who doesn’t play in second games of back-to-backs.

You, on the other hand, have played too much in these last two games, setting season highs. First, 32 minutes against Golden State, then, less than a day later – almost 35 and a half against the Lakers. Isn’t it hard?

No. I felt myself even better during the second game, felt being at 100 percent – just the way I should. This is why I was running and jumping around. Didn’t make all my shots though (laughs). In previous games, it was like playing half the norm.

Another season-high – 10 rebounds, and so a double-double.

This season I completely stopped paying attention to my stats. It doesn’t make any sense when you play much less than you used to. But on the other hand, it’s a new club and there are new goals. This is why stats don’t mean anything for me.

Andrei Kirilenko

And still, four steals (third personal best of the tournament) – does it mean that Kirilenko is back in his top shape? Do you agree?

(Laughs). But I had three of those right in the beginning of the game, it the first quarter.

But the last one happened in the decisive moment, when you led by eight with a minute to go. It looked like that was a key moment.

It’s possible. Though right after that I lost the ball – thew a pass to Joe Johnson across the defense for some reason, even though I know one should never do it.

You made just two of your six free-throw attempts, it was the only down point of this game. Why didn’t they go in?

I don’t know. And I don’t understand why.

Last question. Right now Brooklyn is on its longest road trip that spans seven games. How hard is it to play so many games on the road in a row?

It’s not easy. And it’s very good that we won two of our last three games. Especially since we are facing Portland and Denver next – these teams play very well at home.

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.

Kirilenko after leading Team Russia to Eurobasket title in 2007.

Kirilenko after leading Team Russia to Eurobasket title in 2007.

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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Timofey Mozgov blogs about double-double, broken finger, free agency

April 20, 2013 1 comment

Timofey Mozgov has blogged at Sports.ru after the regular season finale where he got to play after the long wait.

Here’s my quick translation of his post in its entirety – up to the last smiley.

Hi! I’ve got something for you that can serve as a small reason for joy. Today – a new blog post and yesterday with an actual play during the game between Denver and Suns. Now I have a second double-double of my career overseas – 10 + 10 in 20 minutes. And it feels good, of course, I will not lie to you))

But I’ll tell you this right away: this is just stats, and I am not going to jump with happiness. I think it’s clear. This is just one game (and not the most important for us) and in fact it was just my second real chance this season. I’ve said it many times that I know what I’m capable of and I’m hungry for the game action. And, as you should agree, double-doubles are so frequent in this league.

So that was another reason why I didn’t even want to blog today. Didn’t want it to look like Tima, who used to be silent, got happy now and when the slightest opportunity presented itself, right after taking the shower, ran to grab his tablet and started to boast about it:)) Well I didn’t do anything outstanding today! And it’s unlikely to change the overall situation too…

So I wanted to wait a little bit – when the first round ends, for example. Or to blog about the season in general. But my team insisted on it. Guys told me that I already had enough reasons to make my readers happy. And there will always be enough time in future to sum up the season. So if you are happy to be reading this, then you should thank the guys as well:)))

The morning before the game Javale didn’t feel very well – he was suffering from stomach pain. But in the end he played despite it. Kosta played too. Almost his regular minutes. So where did my almost two entire periods of playing time come from – only coach knows that.

As it normally happens, nobody told me anything beforehand. The coach just picked me up from the bench in the second quarter, and that’s it. There was no personal assignment either. All in all, I think I did alright in the end. Other than my field goal percentage which could be better, and that I injured my finger.

It’s the thumb, on my left hand. This means, not the shooting one. Luckily. There was some commotion and something happened there when I battled with Haddadi. I can’t even recall what exactly. Even more so because I didn’t feel any strong pain. Maybe it happened because of game emotions, but I kept on running around right until the siren.

It was only in the locker that I saw how swollen my finger was and felt a strong discomfort. Doctors did an X-ray. It turned out it was a fracture. Not exactly a complex and scary one. In this little special cast here I can keep on practicing and of course I am ready to play. During the breaks in gym work I’ll be taking medicine and going through procedures.

In general, I want to say, we had a really good season. It was steady, on the same good level throughout. We have polished our playing style as a team, many among us got the extra experience, somebody has found their place and role on the team, and here is the result. Which is even unique in some way. For example, a 23-game winning streak at home!

Right now we start to get ready for the playoffs. I’m sure it’s going to be interesting:))

And it’s going to be not less interesting during the offseason.

The media are writing about it, you are discussing it and I am asked to comment on the information that Denver can make a qualifying offer to me. What can I say about it? If they are writing it, then, maybe, it may really happen. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Especially since it wouldn’t be like they are going out of their way if they did this. I think the reasons for this are clear.

So, if the offer comes, nobody (me and my agents for sure) will be surprised. But looking at the big picture, no matter if it happens or not, my future will be set after July 1. This is the date after which I will be able to receive offers from any club in the NBA. This is when we are going to see the full picture. During that period we are going to decide what we should do.

As always, here’s a bit of something unrelated to basketball.

I’m tired of the winter!:)) I don’t like it too much as it is. And here – just look at this: it’s April outside, and we still have this going on behind the window.

It’s great that the parents came for a visit for a couple weeks. Mom and dad got to see Lyokha who has grown up a bit, we went to the Colorado mountains, showed them the Red Rocks. So both they and we got recharged with positive energy.

Oh, and at last I got to see a hockey game in Colorado. I used to go to SKA games in Saint Petersburg, then in New York, and now here. If not for my dad, I don’t know how long it would take. And here it all coincided – the practice was in the morning, game in the evening and dad who really wanted to go there.

Our team lost. Maybe because Semyon was injured. Though they are clearly not the strongest team in the league right now. But anyway, my dad was really happy, and I liked a lot too.

That’s all for now! Let’s wait for the playoffs to tip off! See you again!:))

Timofey Mozgov talks trade deadline, summer plans

February 25, 2013 2 comments

After the trade deadline has passed without any news, Timofey Mozgov was interviewed via phone by the Sport-Express journalist Alexey Bezyazychnyi.

Here goes my quick translation of the whole thing (minus the questions about the national team).

- Of course I badly want to play. From this perspective, a trade was supposed to happen. It would be good both for me and the club, because my contract expires in summer, which means I will be able to leave Denver without any compensation. I don’t know what was on our management’s mind when they decided not to trade me. But if it happened, it means that there were some major reasons for that. NBA is a serious business, where nothing is being done without a reason. I hope I will get an opportunity to show what I can do this season. Otherwise, why keep me on the team?

- It was reported that Miami and Minnesota have contacted the Nuggets about you. Did it really happen?

- Yes, my agent told me about it. And I would go to Miami or Minneapolis gladly. On one condition only – that they would let me play. That the Heat are the main title contender this season didn’t matter to me at all. I am not going to sit on the bench even for a champion’s ring. To me, playing time is more important right now than any team results.

- In terms of team results Denver is doing well: the team is among the playoff eight and is battling for the home court advantage.

- We are really playing well. And to some extent it’s a reason for optimism, because exactly during the playoffs last season George Karl has put me into the starting lineup, even though during the regular season he played me almost as little as he does now. What if history repeats itself? You can expect anything from Karl, as I have already learned multiple times. So I try not to get disappointed because of coaching decisions. If it depended on me, then it would be another thing. Then it would make sense to analyze what I am doing wrong. But in my case, there’s no such correlation. I have to just work and wait.

moz-blocks

- How did you spend the All-Star Weekend, during which you could have been traded?

- I didn’t watch the broadcasts from Houston, not even the Rookie game where Lyosha Shved played. My wife has dreamt to visit Los Angeles for a long time, so we used these few days to fill this gap. We spent a great vacation, visited Beverley Hills, met the family of Yaroslav Korolev that lives in California. I should admit that I liked it in Los Angeles.

- Would you be glad if you learned that you don’t have to leave Los Angeles, because you have been traded from Denver to the Lakers?

- (Pauses to think about it). It’s hard to say. To sit on the bench behind the backs of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol just because this is a great club and Los Angeles is a nice city – I don’t want it. If I was 35 years old, maybe I would think differently. But I am only 26, and I want to play.

- If Denver doesn’t provide this opportunity until the end of the season, will you stay in the NBA or move to Europe as a free agent in summer?

- You can’t rule out anything. But right now my priority is the NBA. According to my agent, there are two or three clubs in this league that are willing to sign me during offseason. We will consider everything and make a decision.

- What’s left is to just wish you to adjust to the demands of George Karl eventually.

- Thank you. I can’t wait myself for the moment he remembers that I’m there. Especially since the season looks promising for the Nuggets. Last season when we pushed the first-round series to seven games, it was perceived as sensation. Now, even if we make it to the Conference Finals, nobody will be surprised.

Too bad that Moz doesn’t get any minutes lately. It is hard for him, because he is a rare super-tall player who wasn’t just pushed into playing basketball, but actually loves to play. We’ll see what the free agency brings him an opportunity to get some playing time, well deserved on effort alone.

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Andrei Kirilenko leaves Russian national team to spend more time with his family

February 23, 2013 2 comments

Here is my translation of the entire statement by Andrei Kirilenko regarding his retirement from the Russian national team. He presented it as a monologue via phone, talking to the Sport-Express journalist Pavel Osipov.

Recently I had a long talk with the president of Russian basketball federation Alexander Krasnenkov. I have stated my own position to him in detail and said that I consider retirement from the national team.

The reason is not fatigue. I have thought about it a lot and took advice from a great number of people, mostly relatives and close friends. Many of them don’t object that I continue to play, but… The intense NBA season makes one spend a lot of time away from the family. It takes up all your time for six and a half months at least. I want to be the best dad that I can and take great part in their lives. I want to see them growing up – not limiting myself to just telling them a tale before they go to bed, when I come back home at 10 or 11 and they are not sleeping, waiting for me.

I am not ready to spend my entire summer with the national team and not with my family. If there was a way to do both, I would definitely do it. Yes, we managed to find a compromise before. Sometimes my wife and kids joined me in training camp. But I can’t and shouldn’t drag them along with me. They have their own schedule which I need to adjust to.

I would hate to keep everyone waiting for a long time. It was important to make up my mind and let everyone know about my decision soon – the coaches, teammates and fans. You know that it would happen anyway, sooner or later. Especially now that time has come for the new leaders – Shved, Karasev and others. And the current veterans – Khryapa, Monia and Fridzon – aren’t done yet.

Krasnenkov asked me about one thing: not to give my final word. Originally I wanted to make my plans for the entire Olympic cycle, right up to Rio de Janeiro. But the president and I decided to make a decision only regarding the upcoming Eurobasket and to return to the talks about the national team after a year or two. Maybe then I will once again feel the need for emotions which I am saying no to right now?

As for now, I am doing what I think is necessary. Personally I feel that I gave the national team all I could. And it’s time to pass my power and my responsibility to others. I know that someone will agree with that and someone will criticize me. But, in my opinion, the time has come. Even though I can play at the highest level for another three or four years…

It was always a great pleasure to join the national team. But at the same time I understood that you can’t give a half-hearted effort. If you show up at the training camp, you should take pains just like everybody else. Those 12 years that I spent on the national team gave a lot to me as a person and as a basketball player. We won medals at big international tournaments and those wins will stay in memory forever.

I am grateful to the national team for everything, for all the positive and negative moments. To all the guys that I was lucky to play with. Starting with the veterans who accepted me, a 17-year old, and to the current youth to which I am a veteran myself. And definitely, thank you to all the fans, especially those who were with us in Madrid during the 2007 Eurobasket which we won and in London during the Olympics.

Believe me, this decision didn’t come easy, but for the comfort of my kids I have to sacrifice something. And even if I will never play another game for the national team, I am not saying farewell to it. In any case I will be taking part and helping in some way. But to give it all my free time to an extent that I used to, unfortunately, I can’t.

I say great job by the federation president – nobody really needed that decision, as Kirilenko will be a welcome addition to the team whenever he ever has the opportunity. Retiring officially would make it somehow harder for Kirilenko to come back if he wants to, even though Dirk Nowitzki did come out of retirement with Team Germany.

At the same time, it would be insane to demand something from a player who has already sacrificed 9 of his 12 offseasons.

So we’ll keep the teary moments until the official retirement, and let’s wish Kirilenko manages to add an NBA title to his huge collection, and spends quality time with his family.

Mozgov blogs about Dwight and who pays when the Nuggets eat together

December 10, 2012 Comments off

Timofey Mozgov has updated his blog at Sports.ru.

Here’s my quick translation of the entire post:

Hi everyone! It’s nice after all the hard work in practice to eventually return on the court. First in the game against the Lakers and then Atlanta too. A lot of people make jokes already that LA are my “clients”. I guess there’s some small amount of truth to it: I really play against them often and a lot.

And coaching staff backs it up too. I knew it beforehand that I would step on the court. The “headquarters” informed me about it in the morning. Even though they made a remark that normally they don’t like to let players know in advance. But we were about to face such a strong frontcourt that we had to throw all forces to fight it. They told me to get ready.

I’ll say it once again: I was happy to get some considerable playing time after all. But to tell the truth, I didn’t expect to get so many minutes. Even though – once again, as I already said – physically I’ve been ready for a long time. Foot doesn’t bother me anymore; I’m working hard in the gym: both before the team practice and after it.

Though I already blogged about this training regimen that I have. I won’t repeat myself.

I think I played alright. Alright in a sense that no practice (even if it’s very long and hard) can replace a real game for a basketball player. So of course I don’t get to play enough now. From this stems the stark realization that everything could (and should) be much better.

By the way, here’s what I want to note separately. Finally – in my third NBA season – I got to face Howard on the court!:))) Well, it’s clear why they call this strong, aggressive and quick guy the best center there is. He is gifted with all these qualities in abundance. Actually, you already know his strongest traits.

Of course, he did his thing great against us. Let’s call things by their names: he buried us. Though, despite all that, there were some moments where you could realize that even “superman” is human. He, too, can be not perfect, he can feel the pain and it’s possible to compete with him.

howard

But Bryant wasn’t on his best game. And our defense didn’t let him go too. But, as you can see, it didn’t change the general situation…

I got my second real chance this season – not garbage time, but a good number of minutes – during the game against Atlanta. Once again, I knew it beforehand that I would play. Kosta felt some stomach pains in the morning and wasn’t even listed for the game.

As you can guess, having tasted blood again versus LA, my desire to play exceeded even my normal desire that is always strong. So the “hungry and mad” Mozgov was very active under the rims. With all that, I can’t say I had dramatically changed the way I play and so those 13 rebounds came right away. I was just doing my job, and a good deal of what I tried ended well.


For now, to my regret, main thing didn’t work out: using two chances out of two didn’t bring me a stable spot in rotation. So I continue to patiently work hard.

And to finish, here’s something not basketball-related. Lyokha is almost walking on his own already. He’s even more confident standing on his feet now. Alla and I can’t be happier looking at the new games that he comes up with.

By the way, about the other “games”.

We still go out to eat together with the guys. So, here’s a fun thing that we do. When it’s time to pay on receipt, we take all our credit cards and give it to the waitress. She hides it behind the back and we start to pick the “lucky ones”. The last credit card that’s left is used for payment.

Guys are already looking at me sideways – I’m always out during the “qualifying” rounds for probably a year already. I have to counter it, “When I lose, it’s going to be no problem”. And the most frequent client turns out to be Danilo:))

That’s all for now. Keep waiting for the new posts.

P.S. Sorry that I’m not updating my blog often. I don’t want to write about the mundane stuff, and there aren’t many other causes. I hope that it’s just for now. Oh, and by the way – check the comments too, which you can leave now in the guestbook at my website mozgov.pro )))

Timofey has also joined his readers in the comments under the post for the first time and answered a few questions before leaving for another practice. There, he said normally eating together are Koufos, Gallinari, him and “Felipe, one of the trainers”.

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Shved: It was about time to start making some threes

December 4, 2012 Comments off

Journalist Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express has interviewed Alexey Shved on the phone after the Russian guard tied Luke Ridnour in scoring with 16 points in Minnesota’s win.

Here’s my translation:

- Even though Minnesota won, it still had the same problem: during the second half, team inevitably struggles on offense. For example, during the third quarter today, Timberwolves couldn’t score for five and a half minutes. Why does it happen?

- We are doing our best, but at one moment it’s just – pow! – and we stall. We have missed a lot of open shots today, even though we executed well. It helped that we defended well, and also managed to recollect ourselves on offense just in time.

- Minnesota got a lot of help from you – those three-pointers were timely. You have made four three-pointers for the game – that’s your best record during the NBA career.

- (Laughing) Actually I don’t track my stats this closely. But of course it’s really good that I made it. It was time for me to start making the shots at last.

- Thanks to what exactly?

- I have started to feel my shot; I have more confidence shooting the ball in general. And maybe I got used to the American three-point arc after all.

Shved shoots

- Is it more difficult for you to shoot from behind the arc that is about three feet farther away than in Europe?

- I wouldn’t say so.

- And you have proved it that distance doesn’t make any difference – when you made a shot from almost 30 feet away with less than two minutes to go.

- I have checked the scoreboard right when I received the ball. Also, teammates told me that time was running out. If we had at least five extra seconds then I wouldn’t shoot it from that distance and would try to do something else. But in that situation I had no choice. When you have the ball it your hands with two seconds left, you just have to shoot it anyway.

- You have made 9 of 17 shots from behind the arc during the last three games. Can you say that you managed to find your shot after all?

- Let’s wait for a few more games and make conclusions then. Before that, I had 10 games when I couldn’t make anything. If I continue to make shots, then it will mean that I got used to playing here.

- Do the opponents still doubt your ability to score from the distance, or did they start to guard you closer?

- They are guarding me closer. And they started to jump at my pump fakes too – before, they wouldn’t even move. Actually, it’s good that they are guarding me closer now. It’s much easier to drive to the hoop this way. When you can’t shoot, the defender would step away further and it’s easier for him to defend.

- It’s been a few games since Love, Pekovic and Barea returned. But you still play more than 30 minutes in every game. Did you think you would get so much playing time?

- Without a doubt, Andrei’s absence due to injury in those games affected that. I got some extra playing time. But it was also more difficult to play. Having Kirilenko on the floor helps, I feel much more comfortable playing with him.

Then, another shooting guard, Chase Budinger, is injured.

Of course I’m happy that so much trust is being put in me. And I want to justify it, to help the team as much as I can. Not just on offense, but on defense too. Even though I know it perfectly that I play bad defense.

- Is it harder to play defense in the NBA than in Europe?

- Of course! Take [Juan Carlos] Navarro and [Kobe] Bryant, for example. Both are superstars, but there’s a difference. Playing against Navarro you know that you need to deny him the open shot and his trademark ‘La Bomba’. But how do you defend Kobe, who knows how to do absolutely everything?

- Probably the best recent news for Minnesota is that Ricky Rubio returned to practice.

- Yes, he started to practice with the team and should be back on the floor soon. When exactly it will happen is unknown. But it will be soon. Players, fans and journalists are all waiting for his return.

- Will Rubio’s return affect your playing time?

- I don’t think so. After all, I rarely play point guard – mostly at shooting guard. Of course, we’ll see. But one thing is certain: I need to work hard all the time and earn my minutes, prove that I deserve it. Yes, some really bad off games happen. But coach still trusts me – and, believe me, it’s very important.

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Kevin Garnett unveils new signature shoe near Chinese-Russian border, talks Chelsea F.C.

September 7, 2012 2 comments

Kevin Garnett has joined the long list of NBA stars that toured China this summer, though his itinerary is rather surprising, starting in Harbin. It is so far in the North that it’s actually just a few hours’ drive away from where I’m currently based in Russia.

The organizers have set up a stage on the central pedestrian street of Harbin, and what seems to be thousands of fans flocked to see the event. I know that place very well, as I’ve been learning Chinese for a month just a few blocks from there, across the Stalin Park.

Don’t be surprised to see a Russian Orthodox Cathedral standing nearby in the video, as it’s Harbin’s most recognizable building, left there by Harbin Russians and turned into a museum by now.

 

Here’s what Red’s Army blog posted earlier after seeing the photos:

“The one thing that really blows me away about some of these pics is the amount of fans that turned-out. Now I know KG is huge worldwide, but this crowd rivaled some of the Sox & Celtics’ victory parades we had here in Boston recently”.

Here’s guessing that it was the biggest event in Harbin in quite some time. It is a great city, which is tenth in population in China, and yet it’s very remote and rather quiet as compared to Shanghai or Beijing, and not really spoiled by superstar visits.

On stage, Garnett has unveiled his new signature shoe, Anta KG III.

Among other things, a Chinese journalist has asked KG about his relationship with Didier Drogba, who is the biggest star from abroad currently playing in China. Garnett said yet another time that he is a fan of Chelsea F.C. He added that he only met Drogba briefly, yet sent him a telegram, congratulating on a championship, which probably shows how close of a friends they are. A telegram.

 

Garnett recalled that Drogba also went to see him play in an exhibition game in London. No surprise as Drogba is a basketball guy himself.

Too bad that Shanghai is not on Garnett’s schedule, as Drogba’s team plays a home game September 15th.

Now, Garnett’s tour goes on, with a complete schedule as follows: Harbin (Sep. 6), Zhengzhou (Sep. 7), Chengdu (Sep. 8) and Shenzhen (Sep. 9-11). So there’s probably more to come about Garnett’s travels.

Iverson signed in China – so far, just for an exhibition tour in October

September 6, 2012 1 comment

Allen Iverson has finally decided to pursue his basketball career in China, and has to take what’s available right now – a contract for a handful of exhibition games. It remains possible that the former NBA MVP signs with a professional team in China before start of the season, but so far the talks didn’t result in a deal.

 

The exhibition games will take place October 18 – 28 in four different cities in China. Iverson will clearly be the biggest star of the event – as he unveiled the tour’s poster, he saw his portrait in the fine company of a retired NBA player Jason “White Chocolate” Williams and AND1 streetballers The Professor and Bone Collector.

Iverson said, “Nice” when he first saw the poster, then turned back again to study the details closely.

Looks like for most of the trip Iverson has the “I have been taken hostage” look that he normally wears when leaving the States. Here’s a small gallery:

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Jeremy Lin’s birthday wish: “An NBA championship”

August 17, 2012 3 comments

Jeremy Lin spent some of his time in China as a guest star on a TV show “China’s got talent”.

He did show some tricks:

But more importantly, it was Lin’s birthday, so the hosts presented him with a cake:


Jeremy Lin’ birthday wish was simple: “An NBA championship”:

 
So Jeremy Lin s fans in Houston should rejoice, but remaining in New York may only find it comforting that Lin already got a boat instead:

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