Andrei Kirilenko talks about guarding LeBron James
Here’s my translation of part of Andrei Kirilenko’s recent interview with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express.
– Are the games against LeBron special for you?
– They are different. After all, it doesn’t happen every day that you get to face the best basketball player in the world. So each of these games… No, it is not a challenge, but a mini-duel, without any doubt. It is always interesting for me to guard LeBron, because he is a really smart player, who knows not only how to score, but also how to do everything else: rebound, pass, steal the ball. There, he has blocked four of our shots in this game.
– You really have the right to compare, so, is James the best basketball player in the world right now?
– If I say yes, then a lot of people will make noise arguing that it is Durant or Bryant. So I’ll only speak of my own perception. First, the results speak in his favor: Miami has won the title last season. Second, I really sympathize with him because of his versatile brand of basketball that he plays. But what’s probably most important, he is a basketball player who, by playing great, makes his teammates play better too. Regarding this, nobody comes close to him.
The most interesting thing happens when you manage to meet eyes with him. Then sometimes you can tell what he is going to do. But right away you realize that he has already guessed your plans and is going do something else now. That’s the telepathic connection we establish. Who outwits who. Sometimes he does, sometimes I do.
– And what do you need to do to stop him?
– (Laughing) It is easy to say but much harder to do. You need to deny him the ball as much as possible. You should make him take shots from the distance. When James is driving to the hoop, he is extremely dangerous and is literally impossible to stop. Yes, he shoots better from the distance now, but it is still less dangerous than his drives. And, of course, you need to make him go left. It doesn’t lessen the degree of danger, but it is less comfortable for him this way. Today we managed to hold him back for most of the game.
– You managed, in the first place. And then you have successfully moved to guarding Wade, who Shved couldn’t do anything against in the first half, and then Wade scored almost nothing against you.
– Wade scored enough already. It is extremely difficult to guard when the opponents have two super scorers like that. You can, of course, start beating yourself on the chest and shout, “I have stopped LeBron and Wade today!” But it is definitely not so. Yes, this game was rather good for me personally in terms of defense. And I did defend for a few possessions against both James and Wade. But the end result does not speak in my favor.