Nets introduce Andrei Kirilenko to Brooklyn
It took a couple weeks longer than originally planned, but Andrei Kirilenko received his official introduction to Brooklyn on Thursday.
Kirilenko, who was signed to a two-year, $6.5 million deal on July 12, was originally scheduled to appear at the blockbuster press conference introducing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. But Kirilenko missed the date due to an overseas obligation, so he got his introduction in a conference call three weeks later.
The 32-year-old veteran forward will be a key contributor off the bench this season. And he already has his eyes on a championship.
“It was really the best option possible to take a legit chance and win the trophy,” Kirilenko said. “For the first time in my career, I’m starting the season when we know we have a chance to win the trophy.”
Kirilenko played with the Timberwolves last season, where he averaged 12.4 points, 2.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers are remarkably similar to his career averages over 11 seasons (12.4 points, 2.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds).
He first made his mark in the league in Utah, where he spent the first 10 years of his career. He averaged 15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game over three seasons from 2003-06 — the height of his career.
This season will present a different challenge for Kirilenko, however. He has been a starter for almost his entire career. After coming off the bench in his first two seasons, he has been a starter all but one season (2008-09).
The Nets are likely to field a starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. All five players are former All Stars, leaving little doubt Kirilenko will be coming off the bench.
Kirilenko has long been rumored to be joining the Nets. Brooklyn courted the free agent last season, but he signed for more money in Minnesota. With Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as majority owner, the Nets always seemed a likely destination.
“I was in Utah [when Prokhorov bought the Nets,]” Kirilenko said. “I was thinking it was great, especially in New York with the Russian community. I had those thoughts that one day I would be with the Nets.”
He apparently held no hopes of staying with the Timberwolves for the 2013-14 season, saying head coach Flip Saunders did not want him back. He decided to opt out of his contract, leaving $10 million on the table.
“I respect Flip Saunders’s decision, but he decided not to sign me for a long time,” Kirilenko said. “I can’t do anything about that.”
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